TIME Congress

Congress Goes Back to Work With a Busy Agenda—and a Deadline

Pennsylvania Avenue at dusk
Getty Images

A government funding fight is shaping up as another big partisan brawl

(WASHINGTON)—After July Fourth fireworks and parades, members of Congress return to work Tuesday facing a daunting summer workload and a pending deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown in the fall.

The funding fight is shaping up as a major partisan brawl against the backdrop of an intensifying campaign season. Republicans are eager to avoid another Capitol Hill mess as they struggle to hang onto control of Congress and try to take back the White House next year.

Already they are deep into the blame game with Democrats over who would be responsible if a shutdown does happen. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has denounced Democrats’ “dangerously misguided strategy” while House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California accuses Boehner and his Republicans of pursuing “manufactured crises.”

The funding deadline does not even arrive until Sept. 30, but lawmakers face more immediate tests. Near the top of the list is renewing highway funding before the government loses authority July 31 to send much-needed transportation money to the states right in the middle of summer driving season.

The highway bill probably also will be the way lawmakers try to renew the disputed federal Export-Import Bank, which makes and underwrites loans to help foreign companies buy U.S. products. The bank’s charter expired June 30 due to congressional inaction, a defeat for business and a victory for conservative activists who turned killing the obscure agency into an anti-government cause celebre.

Depending on the progress of the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, lawmakers could also face debate on that issue. Leading Republicans have made clear that they are prepared to reject any deal the administration comes up with.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Sunday that Iran “should have faced a simple choice: they dismantle their nuclear program entirely, or they face economic devastation and military destruction of their nuclear facilities.”

“It was actually both the fact of sanctions in 2013 and the threat of even tighter sanctions that drove them to the negotiating table,” Cotton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“That’s why we shouldn’t have let up those sanctions,” he added. “We should have insisted on the very simple terms that President Obama himself proposed at the outset of this process. Iran dismantles its nuclear program entirely and then they will get sanctions relief.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said any agreement with Tehran must be “comprehensive.”

“It’s got to prevent Iran from any steps towards producing a nuclear weapons,” said Cardin, also appearing on ABC. “That means you have to have full inspections, you have to have inspections in the military sites. You have to be able to determine if they can use covert activities in order to try to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Beyond the issue of Iran, the Senate opens its legislative session with consideration of a major bipartisan education overhaul bill that rewrites the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law by shifting responsibility from the federal government to the states for public school standards.

“We’re seven years overdue” for a rewrite, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The House also is moving forward with its own, Republican-written education overhaul bill, revived after leadership had to pull it earlier this year when conservatives revolted.

Even if both bills pass, though, it’s uncertain whether Congress will be able to agree on a combined version to send to President Barack Obama. Indeed the prospects for any major legislative accomplishments arriving on Obama’s desk in the remainder of the year look slim, though there’s talk of the Senate following the House and moving forward on cybersecurity legislation.

That means that even though Obama was so buoyed when Congress sent him a major trade bill last month that he declared “This is so much fun, we should do it again,” he may not get his wish.

But all issues are likely to be overshadowed by the government funding fight and suspense over how — or if — a shutdown can be avoided.

Democrats are pledging to oppose the annual spending bills to fund government agencies unless Republicans sit down with them to negotiate higher spending levels for domestic agencies. Republicans, who want more spending for the military but not domestic agencies, have so far refused. If there’s no resolution by Sept. 30, the government will enter a partial shutdown.

It’s an outcome all involved say they want to avoid. Yet Democrats who watched Republicans pay a steep political price for forcing a partial shutdown over Obama’s health care law in 2013 — and come within hours of partially shutting down the Department of Homeland Security this year — claim confidence they have the upper hand.

“Given that a Democratic president needs to sign anything and you need Democratic votes in both chambers, the writing is on the wall here,” said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

Republicans insist Democrats are running a risk by opposing spending bills for priorities like troop funding — but are not yet discussing how they will proceed if Democrats don’t back down.

As a result it looks likely current funding levels could be temporarily extended beyond Sept. 30 to allow more time to negotiate a solution.

And it’s not the only consequential deadline this fall. The government’s borrowing limit will also need to be raised sometime before the end of the year, another issue that’s ripe for brinkmanship. Some popular expiring tax breaks will also need to be extended, and the Federal Aviation Administration must be renewed. An industry-friendly FAA bill was delayed in the House recently although aides said that was unrelated to the Justice Department’s newly disclosed investigation of airline pricing.

In the meantime, the presence of several presidential candidates in the Senate make action in that chamber unpredictable, Congress will be out for another recess during the month of August — and in September Pope Francis will visit Capitol Hill for a first-ever papal address to Congress.

TIME faith

Inside Pope Francis’ U.S. Trip Schedule

Vatican Pope Francis'
Massimo Valicchia—NurPhoto/AP Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican City, on June 24, 2015.

The schedule says a lot about Pope Francis' focus

Pope Francis’ schedule is almost always a political document. Everyone wants a piece of it, especially when it comes to his upcoming September trip to the U.S. The White House and Congress, not to mention outside groups, have been lobbying for months to try to influence his agenda. On Tuesday morning, the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the official schedule for the trip. Predictably, it is packed. Pope Francis will visit Cuba and the U.S. from Sept. 19-28—four days in Cuba, five in the U.S—and give a total of 26 addresses, 18 of them in the U.S.

The world has known the big-ticket items for months—a meeting with President Obama, an address to the U.S. Congress, a talk at the United Nations, and a mass in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. But the other events hold just as powerful a message. The logistics are often the key to understanding the entire agenda—where Pope Francis is, who he is with, where he is coming from and where he is going next say as much about his message as his words themselves.

This schedule shows the Pope’s diplomatic acumen from the start. Pope Francis comes to Washington only after giving first dibs to Cuba, an island that the U.S. had blackballed economically until he intervened in December. And, Pope Francis will fly directly from there to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington DC, symbolizing the new link he helped to forge between the two nations.

Once he has arrived in the U.S., Pope Francis establishes a pattern—he links political events with pastoral ones. His first full day in Washington, the Pope will meet with Obama at the White House, and then leave to hold midday prayer with the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. It is tradition for the pope to gather the bishops when he visits, and leaving the White House for a church shows the value Francis places on the work of the church and its leaders.

The next day, immediately after speaking to the U.S. Congress, he will visit Catholic Charities, the social outreach ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington, which does extensive work to serve the area’s poor, homeless and immigrant communities. The juxtaposition is a not-so-subtle hint about who Pope Francis hopes political leaders will be—politicians who serve the poor, instead of staying isolated in the halls of power.

The pattern continues in New York, where Pope Francis will begin his time with an evening prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before addressing the U.N. the next morning. From there, he will—again—go directly to an interfaith service at the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. It is another statement about the importance of solidarity, especially between Christians and Muslims in the face of global extremism. Pope Benedict visited Ground Zero to pray in 2008, but Francis is taking it to another level with an interfaith focus. He will then visit a Catholic elementary school in East Harlem, and celebrate mass in Madison Square Garden.

When Pope Francis goes to Philadelphia, the pattern shifts, but only slightly. The World Meeting of Families, a Catholic gathering of families every three years hosted this time in Philadelphia, was from the start the reason for his trip to the U.S. Here, Francis adds specifically political moments to a primarily pastoral visit. In addition to celebrating mass at the Cathedral Basilica, visiting the Festival of Families, and meeting the bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia’s largest prison, the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. What Pope Francis will do there remains to be seen, but his mere presence will both highlight high incarceration rates in the U.S. and make it hard to ignore the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty.

The whole trip concludes with an outdoor mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in 1979.

Francis’ schedule is like a liturgy. It is a roadmap to guide the desired focus of, and communal participation in, his message. And the places he has chosen—Catholic Charities in Washington, a school in Harlem, an interfaith service at Ground Zero, a prison in Philadelphia—will likely end up saying as much about what Francis’ focus is as anything else.

TIME Gay Marriage

Why the Next Gay Rights Push Will Be Different

An anti-discrimination bill won't be limited to gays and lesbians

The Senator leading the push for a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill in Congress tells TIME that he is working with civil rights groups so the coming legislation isn’t just about being gay or lesbian.

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry in every state, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was laying the groundwork for a sweeping bill that would expand gay rights even further. He says he plans to introduce within the next two months. “We need to put forward a bill that captures that full range. We cannot nibble around the edges,” he said in an interview.

Friday’s ruling, while a tremendous milestone for gay rights, had no effect on what conservative attorney Ted Olson, who argued California’s landmark same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court, called a “crazy quilt” of laws that unequally treat gays and lesbians.

Indeed, more than 206 million Americans — nearly two thirds of the country — live in states where employers can be fired someone for being gay. Only 18 states and the District of Columbia prohibit housing discrimination based on a tenant’s sexuality or sexual identity. Three others prohibit discrimination based on sexuality. The remaining 166 million Americans live in states where landlords can evict someone for their sexuality.

That’s why Merkley is working with fellow Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Cory Booker of New Jersey on the Senate’s version of a sweeping non-discrimination law that would bar individuals from being denied services—including housing and jobs but also mortgages and education—based on their sexuality. In the House, efforts are being led by Rhode Island’s David Cicilline, an openly gay lawmaker, and civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia.

“Equal dignity involves equal opportunity. It involves equality in the basic functions of our society,” Merkley said. “There should be the ability for the LGBT community to fully participate without discrimination.”

Merkley is also working with a coalition that includes the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and National Council on La Raza. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign are also lending their advice to Merkley’s drafting process.

“We want to place nondiscrimination for the LBGT community on the same foundation as is anti-discrimination in the Civil Rights Act,” Merkley said.

The politics, however, could be tricky. Neither House Speaker John Boehner nor Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was a fan of earlier gay rights proposals. Yet that was before the Supreme Court decided all Americans have the right to marry. No Republican is yet publicly working with Merkley’s council.

“There is a sense of acceleration on this. There has been a huge change, year by year,” Merkley said. “The inherent logic is that if you believe that every individual should be able to be married with the person that they love, then you believe that every individual should pursue employment without discrimination. … You surely also believe that people should have equal access to mortgages, equal access to public accommodations, equal access to housing, equal access to all of the fundamentals of our society that give a person a full chance to participate and to thrive.”

TIME Beer

Congress Could Strip Samuel Adams Of Its Craft Beer Crown

Oktoberfest Sponsored By The Village Voice Presented By Jagermeister Hosted By Andrew Zimmern - Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By FOOD & WINE
Cindy Ord—2014 Getty Images A view of Samuel Adams at Oktoberfest sponsored by The Village Voice presented by Jagermeister hosted by Andrew Zimmern during the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By FOOD & WINE at Studio Square on October 19, 2014 in New York City.

Congress is ready to get into the craft beer business, which could mean bad news for big batch craft brewers like Sam Adams.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, proposed the new Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act that would give the U.S. government the right to define who is and isn’t a craft brewer.

The law essentially redefines the tax structure for small to mid-size brewers and would, accordingly, group them into three categories based on new excise taxes, which was outlined by MarketWatch.

  1. The craft brewers, those producing under 2 million barrels per year would get the deepest tax cuts.
  2. The mid-size brewers, those producing 6 million barrels or less, get a slight tax break.
  3. The macro brewers, which don’t get a tax break beyond their first 6 million barrels of production.

It’s a technicality, essentially a quirk of the law that would group companies for tax purposes. But, it would leave a number of big-name craft brewers out of the first category and in a higher tax bracket. That includes Boston Beer Co., which produces 4.1 million barrels (including non-beer beverages such as Angry Orchard cider and Twisted Tea), as well as Yuengling (2.7 million barrels) and North American Breweries (about 2.6 million barrels) with its Magic Hat, Pyramid and other brands.

Given Boston Beer’s recent production growth, almost 20% per year, it could possibly enter the macro brewer league in less than three years.

Until now, to be labeled a craft beer, breweries had to fit within restrictions designated by the Brewers Association craft beer industry group that involved barrels of production, percentage of a brewery owned by a non-craft brewer and more “traditional” aspects.

The industry self-policer has been somewhat accommodating to its peers in years past. It raised the barrel-production limit to 6 million from 2 million in 2010 to allow Boston Beer to lay claim to the craft beer title.

Boston Beer has been on a production tear in recent years, averaging more than 20% growth annually. If it stays the course, it could possibly reach the 6-million-plus macro brewer league in less than three years, leaving its craft brewing title far behind.

TIME global trade

House Passes Final Parts of Obama’s Trade Agenda

John Boehner
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 25, 2015.

The completion of trade agenda will renew the job retraining program for workers displaced by international trade

(WASHINGTON) — The Republican-led Congress completed President Barack Obama’s trade package Thursday, overwhelmingly passing a worker training program just weeks after it was stymied.

The House voted 286 to 138 to renew the job retraining program for workers displaced by international trade. Obama had said he wanted to sign that bill alongside the “fast track” negotiating authority that Congress approved a day earlier.

Usually a Democratic priority, the retraining bill briefly became hostage to Democrats’ failed efforts to block fast track.

The House measure also renews the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Obama and his trade opponents are shifting their focus to proposed trade agreements under negotiation for years. The first, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, involves the United States, Japan, Canada and nine other Pacific-rim nations.

The fast-track law allows Congress to ratify or reject such agreements, but not change or filibuster them.

Most House Democrats, along with major labor unions, opposed fast track, saying free-trade pacts send U.S. jobs abroad.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday’s votes mark “the end of phase one” in the trade debate, but “the fight will continue.” The next step, she said, is “to shine a sharp, clear, bright light” on details of the Pacific-rim proposal.

Passage of the trade bills mark a huge win for the president, and one paradoxically spearheaded by Republicans. And it’s a defeat for the AFL-CIO and unions and environmental groups that fiercely opposed it. Some have vowed to punish the relatively small number of congressional Democrats who opposed them.

But Obama — much like the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton — portrays expanded trade as crucial in a global, high-tech economy. Most Republicans agree, but most congressional Democrats, especially in the House, do not.

Trade has opened the most striking breach between a Democratic president and the lawmakers who overwhelmingly backed him on health care and other hard-fought issues.

Pelosi and fellow House Democrats dealt Obama a humiliating rebuke on June 12, when they derailed his trade package only hours after he traveled to the Capitol to personally ask for their help. The House voted 302-126 that day to reject the job retraining portion of the package. Nearly half the “no” votes came from Democrats.

Republican leaders, with White House support, restructured the legislative package and passed fast track with big GOP margins, plus modest Democratic support.

On Thursday, only six House Democrats voted against the job retraining program. Among Republicans, 132 voted against the program, and 111 voted for it.

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said some Democrats had questioned Republicans’ promises to support the job retraining program even after fast track was secured.

To pass the trade legislation, Ryan, R-Wis., told House colleagues before Thursday’s vote, “We needed a little bit of trust. We are here today to keep our word.”

TIME Supreme Court

A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Latest Obamacare Case

What you need to know

If you’re most Americans, you haven’t been paying attention to the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on Obamacare.

A recent poll from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that 72 percent of Americans had heard little or nothing about a lawsuit which could dramatically transform how the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

A decision in King v. Burwell could come as early as Thursday.

That means you probably have questions. Here are some answers.

Could the court decision end Obamacare?

No. Unlike the Supreme Court’s big 2012 decision on the law’s mandate that you buy health insurance, this case doesn’t have a big constitutional question at its heart. The only issue for the court is a narrow technical question about how the law was worded.

So, what is the court deciding?

The case revolves around whether people who live in states that use the federal Healthcare.gov website — and not their own state-run marketplace — can receive subsidies for their insurance costs. Conservatives who filed the suit say the law doesn’t allow that, while liberal defenders argue that section of the law was just poorly worded.

Who will the decision affect?

The Obama Administration estimates that 6.4 million Americans in 34 states would be at risk of losing the subsidies that made their insurance affordable if the Supreme Court rules against it. Other customers could also see higher prices if the decision adversely affects the insurance market in their state.

Which states would be affected?

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

What will the Administration do if the court rules against it?

The Administration says it has no “plan B.” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who is named in the case, has repeatedly argued that the President’s hands are tied. That means Obama will have to rely on Congress or the states to fix the problem.

What will Congress do?

It’s hard to say. Republicans control both the House and the Senate, and they’re generally opposed to the Affordable Care Act. But many GOP lawmakers think Congress will need to do something. One possibility would be to simply extend the subsidies through 2017, to allow a new — and possibly Republican — president come up with a long-term solution. But Republicans may also want some concessions from President Obama in exchange, such as ending the requirement that individuals buy health insurance. Obama is unlikely to sign a bill that chips away at major features of the law, however.

What happens if Congress doesn’t act?

The problem will fall to the states. Unlike Congress, there’s no simple fix. States would have to start the laborious process of creating their own insurance marketplaces or else find some workaround, like officially designating the federal Healthcare.gov site as their own or borrowing another state’s marketplace. It’s unclear at this point what the options may even be.

Do the states have a plan?

Most do not. Pennsylvania and Delaware have put together plans to create their own exchanges by next year, which would allow residents to continue getting subsidies. But with 26 of the 34 states led by Republican governors — many of whom are opposed to Obamacare — few states have been planning ahead.

What do the 2016 presidential candidates think should be done?

The Democratic presidential candidates will likely argue for Congress to pass a simple fix with no strings attached, although former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not said exactly what she would propose. The GOP field is divided, but several support some sort of transition period to extend the subsidies long enough to allow the next (possibly Republican) president to have the final say. That would make the future of the Affordable Care Act a major campaign issue for the fourth consecutive election.

Read Next: How Obamacare Has Impacted The Uninsured Rate

TIME Innovation

Fight Prison Gangs by Breaking Up Big Prisons

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. America’s biggest prisons are factories exporting prison gangs. Break them up.

By David Skarbek and Courtney Michaluk in Politico

2. Find out why demographics and a charismatic leader still aren’t enough to make a majority party.

By Suzy Khimm in the New Republic

3. Denied a seat at the table of global power, the BRICS nations are building their own table.

By Shashi Tharoor in Project Syndicate

4. With an implanted treatment that blocks a narcotic high, one doctor wants to end addiction.

By Sujata Gupta in Mosaic Science

5. Your next insurance inspector could be a drone.

By Cameron Graham in Technology Advice

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME global trade

Democrats Borrow From the Republican Playbook

The Senate leader faced a wall of press on the second floor of the Capitol, just outside the chamber, his face a mask of outrage: “They were going to try to stop the Senate in its tracks from passing bipartisan legislation until they got what they wanted…” he fumed.

Until January, this could have been virtually any Democrat, railing against Republicans taking the debt ceiling, the budget or any number of bills held hostage to extract budget cuts. But, the last five words Texas Republican John Cornyn uttered last Tuesday showed the complete turnaround: “…when it comes to spending.”

Now in the minority, Democrats have taken a page from the Republican playbook.

In their eight years in the minority, Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, developed a strategy of routine filibustering—requiring a supermajority of 60 votes—until they extracted concessions. This tactic was most evident in the debt ceiling negotiations, where Republicans in recent years demanded cuts equal to the amount the ceiling was raised. Now, Republicans are getting a taste of how frustrating such maneuvers can be for the party in power: Democrats are holding legislation hostage. Only they aren’t seeking to extract more cuts; they’re looking for more money.

Take the trade bill that cleared a major procedural vote 60-37 in the Senate Tuesday morning. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried last week to hold portions of this bill hostage to extract a more favorable highway trust fund deal, which is also pending before Congress. While that gambit failed, her Senate counterparts succeeded in using the trade measure, sought by many Republicans, to leverage concessions on steel protections and quick passage of a bill designed to help poor African countries gain better access to U.S. markets.

And trade is only the beginning. The bill Cornyn was referring to with such apoplexy last week was the National Defense Authorization Act, which organizes and oversees the Pentagon annually. Republicans inserted into that bill a clause that would enable them to restore military cuts from the sequester, painful across the board spending cuts that are a legacy of one of the GOP’s hostage episodes in 2011. Democrats last week allowed the NDAA to pass, but they are holding hostage the funding in all 13 of the annual appropriations bills until Republicans agree to either leave the Pentagon cuts in place or allow equal increases in entitlement spending as was originally envisioned in the 2011 deal. If Republicans don’t find a way to satisfy Democratic demands, the government will shut down again come the end of September.

And then in October, we have an oldie but goodie: the debt ceiling. Though Senate Democratic leadership has said they want a clean extension, some Democrats are already dreaming up what they’d like to see funded in order to allow that one through. Some candidates: the highway trust fund, if that can gets kicked down the road again, and No Child Left Behind reauthorization.

As Bishop Robert Sanderson once told British King Charles I in the 1630’s, “Whosoever thou art that dost another wrong, do but turn the tables: imagine thy neighbour were now playing a game, and thou his.” A young Sir Isaac Newton studied Sanderson at Cambridge; Washington could only hope that some logic may yet emerge from the bitter experience of turning the Senate’s chess table.

TIME global trade

Obama’s Trade Agenda Survives Key Senate Procedural Vote

Barack Obama
Pablo Martinez Monsivais — AP President Barack Obama speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

White House trade agenda clears key legal hurdle on its way to becoming law

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate pushed bipartisan trade legislation to the brink of final approval Tuesday in a combined effort by President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders to rescue a measure that appeared all but dead less than two weeks ago.

The legislation cleared a key hurdle on a 60-37 vote, precisely the number needed.

A final vote is expected by Wednesday on the House-passed measure, which would then go to the White House for Obama’s signature.

It is one of several measures comprising Obama’s second-term trade agenda as the administration works to finalize a 12-nation agreement among countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean

Another bill, to provide federal aid to workers who lose their jobs because of imports, is also awaiting approval. The rescue plan hatched last week calls for the Senate to pass that measure and the House to follow suit later this week, just before lawmakers begin a July 4 vacation.

Eager to reassure Democrats who expressed doubt about a GOP commitment to pass the follow-up bill, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement saying the House will vote on it “once it passes the Senate.”

The legislation has the support of the administration and business organizations, who say it is necessary to win lower barriers to U.S-made goods around the world.

Opponents include organized labor and most Democrats in Congress, who argue that past global trade deals have resulted in the large scale loss of American jobs — and claim this time would be no different.

Those differences were reflected on the Senate floor.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the vote demonstrated “we can work together on something that’s important for our country.”

But Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said it would be a “day of celebration in corporate suites.”

The vote in the Senate was similar to an earlier roll call on the same legislation.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a presidential hopeful, flipped his vote from support to opposition, saying it had become “enmeshed in corporate backroom deal making.”

He did not say why he initially voted for it.

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, voted against advancing the bill after supporting its passage on the earlier vote. His office provided no immediate explanation for the shift.

In all 47 Republicans and 13 Democrats joined forces to assure the bill’s progress.

The negotiating authority that Obama seeks is known as “fast-track.” Most recent presidents have said the same power. Without it, the bill’s supporters say, other nations would be highly reluctant to make the type of compromises that are necessary to seal global trade deals, because they fear that Congress would demand additional concessions.

The week’s maneuvering came a little less than two weeks after the House derailed the trade legislation in a revolt triggered by union-backed Democrats and supported by the party’s leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

Originally, the trade negotiating authority and program of aid for displaced workers were part of one bill, but subject to separate votes.

Democrats who normally support the aid turned against it in the House, and voted it down. That temporarily derailed the entire legislation, sending Obama, McConnell and Boehner scurrying to come up with a rescue plan.

The revised approach was to separate the trade bill from the aid measure, and rely on a strong Republican vote to pass one of them, and a strong Democratic show of support to approve the other.

Obama has said consistently he wants both measures to reach his desk, but House Democrats have not yet said if they will try to block the aid program as part of a desperate move to persuade Obama not to sign the trade bill he so eagerly seeks.

Nor has Obama said what he would do if only the trade bill passes, and the aid measure remains stuck because Democrats without support.

TIME Criminal Justice

Bipartisan Push for Criminal Justice Reform Sets Its Agenda

Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, participates in a session on "Strategic Communication" at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, on February 26, 2015.
NICHOLAS KAMM—AFP/Getty Images Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, participates in a session on "Strategic Communication" at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, on February 26, 2015.

But specifics are a casualty of the search for consensus

A bipartisan coalition leading a landmark push for criminal-justice reform has set its agenda, but many of the details remain to be filled in.

The Coalition for Public Safety, which includes some of the most influential policy groups on the right and left, announced a new campaign Monday to reform sentencing laws and reintegrate offenders back into society.

“We see these ideas as the baseline for how we can reduce the existing prison population,” said Christine Leonard, the group’s executive director, “as well as support individuals coming home.”

The announcement was a sign of how far the movement has come, but also a sign of how much work remains to be done to begin enacting its goals.

The group includes liberal outfits like the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as conservative organizations like Americans for Tax Reform and Right on Crime. The multi-million dollar initiative is underwritten by donors as disparate as Koch Industries and the Ford Foundation. For these fractious factions, the ability to coalesce around a set of policy objectives is no small task. But a casualty of the search for consensus has been specifics.

Read More: Will Congress Reform the Criminal Justice System?

In a conference call Monday with reporters, the group said it would launch a national education campaign to mobilize public support for some of its priorities with the broadest support, including reducing the length of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders, curtailing sentences of life without parole, promoting alternatives to incarceration and removing obstacles that impede transitions back to the workforce for the one-in-three Americans with a criminal record.

But after months of meetings, the recommendations were modest in scope and light on detail. “These reforms are only the beginning of what lawmakers can do,” said Jason Pye, director of messaging and justice reform at the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks.

Nor is it clear that the recommendations will do much to sway them. Despite growing consensus around the need to reform a system that critics call bloated and broken, there has been little little legislative movement. A raft of bipartisan proposals have languished in a divided Congress.

“Some of the other issues are blocked by partisan stalemate. This is one where we actually could move things forward,” said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. “We’re just going to have to defeat the forces of the status quo.”

Organizers acknowledged that threading bills through Congress remains a challenge. The Coalition hopes to make progress by the August congressional recess, when the presidential race will kick into a higher gear and lawmaking will slow even further.

“We’re in a long term marathon here, in terms of where we need to shift the country after two decades of polices that took us in the wrong direction,” Leonard told TIME in an interview. “There is a strong sense of urgency among these partnering organizations to see that we’re making an impact, both in the daily conversations that are happening around dinner tables but also among policy makers.”

But in Washington the forces of inertia increase in accordance with the number of actors. There are are seven organizations involved with the coalition, and it took months of meetings to lay out a general blueprint. There are 535 lawmakers in Congress. Even the most powerful interest groups know that translating public support into tangible reform remains an uphill battle.

“This is not necessarily a road map for a legislative proposal, but it does demonstrate the pathbreaking level of agreement and consensus around a set of issues,” Leonard says. “What we’re anxious about is, why isn’t there more happening?”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com