U.S. House Votes ‘Yes’ on Presidential Trade Promotion Authority
The U.S. House of Representatives has breathed new life into the White House’s trade agenda by passing legislation that grants President Barack Obama ‘fast-track’ trade promotion authority (TPA). The House vote was 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting in favor of the bill.
Last Friday, the House voted 219-211 in favor of fast-track, which would make it easier for Obama to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, a sweeping trade deal encompassing the economies of 12 Pacific Rim countries, including the U.S.
In last week’s vote, the House GOP paired the fast-track bill with a measure known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that gives aid to workers claiming job displacement by international trade. Both measures needed to be approved in separate votes for the entire package to move forward.
House Democrats have historically favored TAA, but they voted against it on Friday to kill fast-track, which is deeply opposed by unions and other liberal groups. The White House still wants both measures to reach Obama’s desk, but is now advancing a different strategy that would see the two bills move separately.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where the White House and Republican Congressional leaders are seeking to strike a deal with pro-trade Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has vowed it will pass, but, if the two bills move separately, Republicans and the White House will have a difficult time convincing Senate Democrats to back ‘fast-track’ on the promise that TAA will move forward at a later time.
VOTING YES ON ‘FAST TRACK’ GIVES THE U.S. INTERNATIONAL CREDIBILITY, SAYS LEGISLATOR
Earlier this week, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin), who voted in favor of the legislation, said that those who backed the trade agenda are “really committed” to getting fast-track and TAA done.
“The tough vote has already been taken,” Kind says. “We’re on record, we supported TPA last week. We also supported TAA last week, too,” he adds.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) warned that repeating last week’s debacle would reflect on the international stage. The ‘yes’ vote in the House, he says, “gives America credibility…and boy, do we need credibility right now.”
The National Retail Federation, a vocal proponent of free trade and TPA, issued a statement from Senior Vice President for Government Relations, David French, on the House vote on “stand-alone Trade Promotion Authority.”
The vote “will grant Congress new powers and responsibilities to craft and monitor our 21st century trade policy, and aid our trade representatives as they work to negotiate pending and future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” says French.
“We urge the Senate to quickly consider the stand-alone TPA bill so it can move to the president’s desk for his signature. They should also finish work on other trade-related bills, including trade adjustment assistance and customs and preferences.”