Sanders, Merkley back McConnell decision to skip TPP vote

Two Senate Democrats said Friday they support a decision by Majority Leader Mitch McConnellto forgo a vote on a sweeping Pacific Rim trade agreement this year.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) applauded McConnell for saying this week that he won’t give the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a vote this year and would instead let the next president overhaul the expansive pact.

Sanders called the decision a major victory for progressives, who oppose the TPP and have been calling on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to take the lead in the fight to stop a vote during the lame-duck session after the November elections.

“I welcome Majority Leader McConnell’s announcement that he will block a vote in the Senate this year on the disastrous, job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Sanders said in a statement.

Sanders, who ran against Clinton for the Democratic nomination, rallied his supporters against the TPP deal during his time on the campaign trail.

Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump, are both against the agreement.  

Merkley said McConnell made the right decision on the TPP.

“The TPP is a flawed trade deal that fails our workers and is opposed by both major party presidential nominees,” Merkley said in a statement. “Pushing it through at the last minute before a new administration would simply be wrong.”

On Thursday, McConnell said during a breakfast that he won’t bring the TPP deal to the Senate floor for a vote this year.  

“The current agreement, the Trans-Pacific agreement, which has some serious flaws, will not be acted upon this year,” McConnell told the Kentucky State Farm Bureau in Louisville.

“But it will still be around. It can be massaged, changed, worked on during the next administration,” he said.

“So, I hope America will stay in the trade business.”

President Obama is urging Congress to vote on the 12-nation TPP before he leaves office. But he is facing resistance from a majority of his own party on Capitol Hill as well as from some Republicans who either don’t want to hold a late-term vote on the massive pact or are wary of the deal’s effects on the U.S. economy. 

Sanders argued that Democrats must unify on an anti-TPP message. 

“In my view, it is now time for the leadership of the Democratic Party in the Senate and the House to go on the record in opposition to holding a vote on this job-killing trade deal during the lame-duck session of Congress and beyond,” he said.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, another group opposing the TPP, also agreed with McConnell’s decision.

“Obama’s insistence on a lame-duck vote for the trade deal is creating political complications for Democrats among blue-collar swing voters,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

“Obama should take note and take the job-killing TPP vote off the table so that Democrats up and down the ballot can’t be outflanked by Republicans on this important economic issue,” Green said.