‘No’ Vote in Congress Sinks ‘Fast Track’ Trade Authority
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 302 to 126 to scuttle a measure to grant financial aid to U.S. workers claiming that their jobs have been lost due to increased imports as a result of free trade.
The measure effectively ends President Barack Obama’s campaign for the ‘fast track’ trade promotion authority and his long-sought after Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major free trade pact encompassing the economies of the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
In a last minute effort to turn around House Democrats who had formed the most solid anti-‘fast track’ bloc in Congress, Obama made a last-minute visit to Capitol Hill to issue a personal plea for the measure.
Urging members to vote with their conscience and “play it straight,” Obama appealed to them to support the financial package for displaced workers, which Democrats have long supported.
But his entreaty proves fruitless, as the ‘fast track’ bill could not move forward after the aid package was defeated.
“I will be voting to slow down fast-track,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) says on the floor moments before the vote. “Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers.”
Congressional Republican leaders, who backed the president’s trade initiative, pleaded with their colleagues across the aisle to support the deal or risk watching the U.S. lose economic ground and trade opportunities in Asia.
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“The president and his counselors understand that this is a legacy vote for his second term,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Virginia), who supports the fast-track legislation, told the Washington Post. “It’s a philosophical battle, a political battle and an economic battle. The president finds himself in the crossfire with the base.”
The National Retail Federation (NRF) reacted quickly to the vote, issuing a statement saying that, “It is nothing short of astounding that in the 21st-century anyone would think it is in our country’s best interest to sit back and let foreign governments dictate our role in a global marketplace.”
According to NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations, David French, the thumbs-down in the House “is a victory for those with a narrow agenda that puts petty politics ahead of people, while jeopardizing the futures of millions of men and women in America—both those with jobs striving to grow the middle class and those seeking jobs that can only come with a robust economy.”
Expressing disappointment at what he calls “isolationist fear mongering and political threats, French states that, “We are genuinely concerned for the seven million restaurant and retail jobs that are supported by trade as well as the continued viability of the businesses that employ them. As this debate moves forward, make no mistake, the world is watching.”
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