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House approves new fast-track trade bill; outcome in Senate still uncertain

Obama's trade agenda back on track in House

President Obama's ambitious trade agenda got back on track Thursday as the Republican-led House overcame Democratic opposition to approve a fast-track authority bill the administration says it needs to negotiate a sweeping 12-nation Pacific trade deal.

The measure, accepted on a vote of 218-208, now goes to the Senate, where it will need to muster at least a few Democratic votes to win passage and be sent to the president's desk.

The effort comes nearly a week after a previous attempt to approve fast-track authority was blocked by House Democrats concerned that the trade deal would not do enough to protect American workers.

The White House believes that the trade deal is vital to keeping the U.S. competitive and boosting economic growth. But the prolonged debate has driven a wedge between traditional Democratic allies, forcing Obama to strike an alliance with Republicans and business leaders against organized labor and many leaders in his own party.

Only 28 House Democrats voted for the bill Thursday.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also had to overcome skepticism from some in his Republican majority who are reluctant to give Obama broader powers or help him score a sizable political achievement.

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