Yesterday the House voted 218-208 to approve the “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. 28 Democrats sided with pro-trade Republicans, sending the measure on to the Senate.
The House took a previous vote on TPA last week, and passed the measure; however, the bill was paired with the TAA, the Trade Adjustment Assistance measure Democrats insist is crucial to protecting American workers from jobs moving overseas. TAA failed to pass, which stalled both TPA and TAA in the House. Yesterday’s vote, however, sets up a new series of challenges for Senate leadership if they want to send TPA to the White House.
Pro-TPA members of Congress still have a long way to go to approve the “fast track” procedure. TPA is off to the Senate, but TAA remains in limbo:
If the two move separately, Republicans and the White House will have to convince Senate Democrats to back fast-track on the promise that TAA will move forward at a later time.
The president spoke with a group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday at the White House, and talks continued in the Senate on Thursday on a way to give the president trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track.
One possible solution would see the Senate vote first to pass a trade preferences bill, this time with the TAA program attached. It would then be sent to the House for a vote before the Senate considers fast-track.
This planned move angered members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who asked Senate leaders not to use the trade measure, which would provide preferential access to the U.S. market for African countries, as a bargaining chip to pass trade promotion authority.
Some Republicans in the Senate are still leveraging a mutiny against granting the President what they believe is an “expanded” authority to negotiate trade deals outside of the halls of Congress. Leadership remains confident, however, that they will be able to convince enough pro-trade Democrats to support the measure without TAA, if it comes to that.
The Democratic caucus, on the other hand, is so significantly divided over the progressive politics of this that even Hillary Clinton is speaking out—against her own president:
The 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful reasoned that fast-track, or trade promotion authority, is a process vote, and “I don’t want to say it’s the same thing as [the Trans-Pacific Partnership],” she said during an interview with Jon Ralston on Ralston Reports.
“I certainly would not vote for it unless I was absolutely confident that we would get Trade Adjustment Assistance,” she said.
Pro-trade Senate Democrats will face a similar dilemma next week. The chamber votes Tuesday on whether to proceed to the fast-track measure and, after that vote, another bill that includes Trade Adjustment Assistance, which is help for workers who lose their jobs because of expanded trade.
As senators headed out for the weekend, there wasn’t a plan in place assuring all the bills would reach President Obama’s desk.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Democrats that the Senate would, once again, pass all the trade measures and ship them up Pennsylvania Avenue.
We’ll keep you updated on TPA’s status.
You can watch the vote here, via C-SPAN:
UPDATE: Oh, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary…
For all her talk about taking a hard line on TAA, she seems to be awfully enthusiastic about making sure the TPP makes its way safely to the president’s desk:DONATE
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