McConnell blames Dems for bottleneck on trade
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE on Wednesday placed the blame squarely on Democrats for the stalemate over amendments to a key trade bill. 
 
The Kentucky Republican said while he is continuing to try to allow for additional amendments to the fast-track legislation, Democrats are standing in the way.
 
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"There have been objections from the other side of the aisle, and I would remind our colleagues that even with my strong support, the Senate can't have a robust amendment process if every single amendment offered by Democrats or Republicans is objected to by our friends on the other side," the Republican leader said. 
 
He added that Republicans will "need cooperation. The Senate can't vote on amendments that are being prevented." 
 
Senators had been expected to vote Tuesday on at least a handful of amendments to the trade promotion authority bill, which allows the president to get his trade deals approved by a simple majority vote. But that effort appeared to hit a wall after Democrats blocked Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (R-Utah) from scheduling more votes. 
 
Democrats wanted Hatch to block McConnell from filing cloture on the trade bill until Wednesday, but he declined. 
 
More than 100 amendments have been filed to the trade bill from both sides of the aisle, but so far senators have taken only two votes, both on Monday. 
 
The amendment fight has focused on two issues: A currency amendment from Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (R-Ohio) and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Democrats to Trump: Ask Forest Service before shrinking monuments MORE (D-Mich.), and another to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank by Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments Live coverage: Senate Republicans pass tax bill MORE (D-Wash.). 
 
The Portman-Stabenow amendment would require that any future trade deals include enforceable currency provisions.
 
The Obama administration, as well as Senate Republican leadership, have warned the bill would be vetoed if Portman's amendment is included. 
 
"The Portman-Stabenow amendment will kill TPA," Hatch said. "It is at this point a verifiable fact." 
 
Hatch said he and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Lobbying world MORE (D-Ore.) had introduced a separate amendment on currency that he said would give the administration a "workable set of tools to counteract manipulation" without jeopardizing the trade legislation. 
 
Wyden also tried to separate the currency fight from the trade bill on Wednesday, saying that senators will be able to battle it out over currency as part of a conference committee on a customs bill later this year. 
 
"We are going to have a chance to tackle currency in that conference," Wyden said.
 
Meanwhile, the fight over extending the charter of the Ex-Im Bank bubbled over on Tuesday night. 
 
McConnell said earlier on Tuesday that the bank would get a vote, but that it shouldn't be a part of the trade bill. 
 
Cantwell said Tuesday that she would continue to object to the trade bill until she was told how the bank's charter would be extended. 
 
"Until our colleagues give us an answer about something we've been clear about for more than a year, we are going to continue to object," she said. "We're not going to let this bank expire, the credit agency, without a fight." 
 
And Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.) warned McConnell he wouldn't vote with him "on anything else this year" until he gets a vote on the bank.  
 
Reid on Wednesday credited Cantwell for pressing on the bank, adding that without her "it would be gone with all the other stuff that goes into the trash can because of the Republicans."
 
"The Republican leader said over and over again that he's opposed to the bank," he said. "Well, that's too bad."