House trade votes get messy

Trade Promotion Authority bill will not move to the president's desk until conflicts over Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) are ironed out.

On Friday the House of Representatives brought up the Senate’s previously approved bill that offers Trade Promotion Authority to the President as well as a bill that offers Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The result was a mixed bag on how the House proceeds and a final bill gets to the President’s desk.

Both must pass before going to the president to be signed into law. Republicans motioned to reconsider the vote on TAA, which might occur early next week. The Senate passed these measures on May 22.

The TAA bill came up first, and because it was part of the Senate package has to be passed in conjunction with a TPA bill. The TAA vote - seen as the predecessor for a successful TPA vote - actually failed overwhelmingly by a vote of 126-302. The TAA program would provide training and other assistance to U.S. workers whose jobs are displaced by international trade. Republicans largely are unsupportive of the program because of the costs associated with it.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) said, “It is disappointing that members of my own party voted against expanding assistance and health coverage to workers solely to bring down trade legislation, and I am pleased the House will hold another vote on TAA next week so it has a chance to reconsider this short-sighted decision. Our bipartisan package of trade, worker assistance and enforcement legislation passed the Senate by a wide, bipartisan margin, and I urge the House to quickly get back to work to move this legislation across the finish line.”

The President found himself on Capitol Hill Friday morning ahead of the votes to rally the remaining Democrat votes. However, his lobbying seemed to backfire as many Democrats who typically support TAA instead saw the vote as a way to slow approval for TPA. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would vote no on TAA just in order to slow down the “fast track” bill of TPA.

Rather than seeing a complete defeat, the House Republicans moved forward on the vote for Trade Promotion Authority – inching a victory with 219 votes to 211 against. A total of 28 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, while 54 Republicans voted against granting the President negotiating authority.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) called the Democrats vote to block one of the President’s top economic priorities was “simply unconscionable.”

Ag groups hope for successful path forward

A statement from Wade Cowan, president for the American Soybean Assn., said, “The vote by the House today is an absolute win for soybean farmers in the United States, but it only gets us halfway to our goal without a compromise on TAA.”

Cowan added, “The House’s disagreements over trade adjustment assistance threaten to stand in the way of the fast track authority we need to finalize an agreement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that includes vital export markets for U.S. soybeans and meat products, as well as the developing markets that grow in their demand for American soy every day. With an administration empowered by TPA, we can also participate fully in the active crafting of agreements between the world’s major traders that has been going on—largely without us—since TPA lapsed in 2007.”

Joel Newman, president and chief executive officer of the American Feed Industry Assn., said although TPA’s passage by Congress has been a struggle, it is immensely beneficial to the U.S. feed industry’s growth. With TPA in place, AFIA said the U.S. will be able to send a clear message to our trading partners that negotiators have “unambiguous authority to negotiate these agreements.” Newman noted, “AFIA looks forward to incredible growth potential for the U.S. feed industry as a result.”

The National Chicken Council applauded the House action to pass TPA, and urged Congress to come to agreement to ensure that the bill is sent to the president’s desk and becomes law. NCC president Mike Brown said, “TPA will ensure foreign access for U.S. chicken, generate more farm income, jobs in rural districts, and improve the U.S. trade balance. Passage of TPA will send a strong signal to the other countries’ negotiators that the U.S. Congress is serious and committed to achieving a new world standard for international trade agreements.”

Brown concluded, “The global economy is not the future. It is now. One in every five pounds of chicken in the U.S. is exported. One in three acres on American farms is planted for export. If job creation is the goal, we must have more trade. To have more trade, we need TPA.”

Failure to pass TPA, which effectively would be a vote against TPP, would send a signal to the world that the United States is turning its back on the Asia-Pacific region – the fastest growing area in the world – and allow other countries to write the rules for international trade, according to the National Pork Producers Council, which is leading the agricultural industry’s efforts to get TPA approved.

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