Clinton trade bill wins first test vote in Senate, 69-31 Vote against delay increases chances of enacting 'fast track'

November 05, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES Sun national staff writer David Folkenflik contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's controversial "fast-track" trade legislation easily won its first test vote in the Senate yesterday, brightening prospects for passage in both houses of Congress later this week.

In a clear show of support for the measure, the Senate voted 69-31 to block any delay in taking up the legislation -- nine votes more than would have been needed to choke off a threatened filibuster by opponents.

Congressional strategists said the strong showing all but guarantees that the Senate will pass the bill, which would enhance Clinton's ability to negotiate trade pacts with other nations.

Final balloting in the Senate is expected by this weekend, after more debate today and a second procedural vote tomorrow.

Both senators from Maryland, Democrats Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, voted to delay the vote on the measure, which they said they opposed.

"I have several yellow flashing lights about the president's 'fast-track' legislation," Mikulski said yesterday before the test vote. "If I have the right to amend a treaty on chemical weapons, arms control and threats to American safety, I believe I have the same right to amend trade agreements.

"Do I believe that we need to be part of a new global order on trade? Absolutely, and Maryland is a trade state," she said. But she added that U.S. companies were often competing against companies that use far-cheaper child labor, which she said did not represent true competition.

Clinton hailed yesterday's vote as a breakthrough, saying that it reflected "a bipartisan coalition for American leadership" that would help sustain America's economic boom.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas told reporters that support in the House for "fast track" had "improved" among both Democrats and Republicans, thanks in part to heavy presidential lobbying.

At the same time, both sides conceded that Clinton was unlikely to persuade many more House Democrats to support the bill and would have to rely on Republicans to fill the gap.

Top administration officials turned to negotiating with Republicans in an effort to make enough concessions on pet GOP issues in other pending bills to attract more Republican support for "fast track."

The "fast-track" bill authorizes the president to begin new trade-liberalization talks. It would require Congress to vote for or against any new trade pact as a whole, without altering specific provisions.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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