This was a vote on final passage of legislation approving a free-trade agreement between the U.S and Colombia. This agreement had already passed the House of Representatives and was supported by the Obama administration. (President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had signed the agreement in 2006.)
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) urged support for this agreement: “ Colombia is a growing economy in Central and South America, to which the United States exported over $121 million in goods last year. This agreement with Colombia is a clear victory for U.S. workers. Due to preference programs that are already in place, nearly 90 percent of the exports from Colombia to the United States have entered our market tariff free. So we largely have a one-way free-trade agreement with Colombia already. Due to these preference programs, this agreement will be a huge benefit to U.S. workers and U.S. businesses, because U.S. exports to Colombia have faced an average tariff of about 14 percent. So, historically, 90 percent of their goods come in duty free while ours face much higher tariffs when they enter Colombia. This isn't fair trade, and this agreement will fix that. It will assure that the one-way trade that advantages Colombian exports instead of American exports is balanced.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opposed this agreement: “Since 1986, some 2,800 trade unionists have been assassinated. Less than 6 percent of these murders have been prosecuted by the Colombian Government. Last year alone--last year alone, in a small country--more than 50 trade unionists were assassinated in Colombia. That is up 9 percent from 2009. I ask, if in Colombia 50 CEOs of companies were killed last year, were murdered last year, do you think people here would be voting for a free-trade agreement with Colombia or would they say: Why would we want an agreement with a country that is so unlawful, that is so brutal, where so many CEOs are being killed? But it is not CEOs, it is just trade union leaders, so I guess it is OK to have an agreement there.”
The Senate approved this trade agreement by a vote of 66-33. 44 Republicans and 22 Democrats voted “yea.” 31 Democrats—including a majority of progressives--and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate approved a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, thereby clearing the way for the agreement’s enactment.