WASHINGTON — Cast aside as an election-year liability by the White House, President Clinton's 1997 proposal for "fast-track" authority to negotiate international trade deals was jolted back to life Tuesday by a Senate committee.
The administration was less than enthusiastic. Senate Democrats accused Republican leaders of political gamesmanship, but many went along in the name of freer trade.
The Senate Finance Committee attached the measure and other trade initiatives to a popular House-passed bill designed to expand trade with Africa, then it passed the whole package, 18 to 2.
The maneuver guaranteed what many Democrats had hoped to avoid: votes before congressional elections on a hotly contested measure endorsed by the president and business groups but opposed by labor and environmental groups.
Commerce Secretary Bill Daley said Congress should have a real debate on the issue and not try to play legislative games.
Fast track enables presidents to negotiate international trade agreements that Congress can accept or reject but cannot amend.