Senate Democrats have dealt US President Barack Obama a stinging rebuke and blocked his efforts to push through "fast track" powers to complete a landmark trade agreement in the Pacific Rim.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday thwarted an attempt by President Barack Obama to begin debate on the largest trade deal in a generation, underscoring a deep rift between the White House and congressional Democrats who argue trade deals are bad for American workers.
The bill foresaw giving Obama "fast track" authority to hold talks on the trade agreement without consulting Congress and negotiate "in good faith" on behalf of the United States. Republicans voted unanimously in favor of the bill, while all but one Democrat voted against it.
The count was 45 yays and 52 nays - eight short of the required 60 needed to avoid Democratic stalling tactics known as a filibuster.
The peculiarity of Republicans losing a vote but Obama taking the blame was not lost on legislators.
"It's amazing to me that they would do this to the president on a bill of this magnitude," said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.
Democrats seemed irked that Obama would request the power to circumvent Congress when negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership but would offer little in return. Democrats had hoped for the inclusion of several provisions that are popular with labor unions.
One involves providing federal aid to workers who lose their jobs to globalization - i.e. free-trade agreements. Another - and by far the most contentious - foresees punishing signees to the accord that artificially manipulate their currencies to make their exports more popular abroad.
Obama has argued that penalizing countries guilty of currency manipulation would invite criticism from the US' trade partners over Washington's loose monetary policy, which is aimed at boosting the economy.
cjc/hg (AP, dpa)