Tags: trade | pact | republicans | democrats | obama | rescue

Republicans Seek Democrats' Backing for Path on Fast Track

Wednesday, 17 Jun 2015 03:32 PM

Republican leaders in Congress are seeking Democratic backing for a plan to revive President Barack Obama’s trade package by adding the proposal to give him fast-track negotiating authority to an unrelated bill.

The idea would require support from Democrats, something far from certain following last week’s defeat to Obama by members of his own party in the House. Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat and leader of fast-track supporters in the House, expressed doubts about the new plan.

“My preferred approach is what the Senate has already done,” Kind said Wednesday. The Senate in May passed the fast- track measure, H.R. 1314, and a workers’ assistance plan in a single measure. “We could do that in one day with no hoops to jump through,” he said.

The Republican plan is designed to bypass House Democrats’ refusal on June 12 to pass the workers’ aid plan, which needed to pass before the fast-track bill could go to Obama for his signature. While Democrats ordinarily support the aid for workers, many of them oppose fast-track on the grounds that trade deals have cost U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Most Republicans support the fast-track measure, sought by Obama to help his administration complete a Trans-Pacific Partnership. It would let the president submit trade pacts to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments.

The House may act on a new plan for passing the fast-track bill this week, said a senior House Republican aide who sought anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

‘Not Clear’

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday it is “not clear to us” whether Republicans have decided on a specific strategy to gain final approval.

“The only legislative strategy that the president will support is a strategy that results” in both the fast-track and worker-aid measures reaching Obama’s desk, Earnest said. Such a strategy “will require the support of Democrats in both the House and the Senate,” he said.

Earnest said the president won’t support legislation that lacks trade assistance for workers, though he stopped short of delivering a veto threat. “It won’t come to that,” he said, because any bill will require Democratic support and that means it must include aid for workers.

Combining fast-track and aid for workers into a single vote in the House would force Republicans to support the worker-aid plan, which they ordinarily oppose, for the sake of getting fast-track trade authority.

All Options

Kind said that approach, which Republican leaders oppose, could still be the way to pass fast track. “You’re seeing Congress exhaust all options until we get this done,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who led the rebellion against Friday’s trade votes, sidestepped a question Wednesday about the Republican proposals.

“I really don’t know what they are doing. They’ve changed it so many times. They keep changing it,” Pelosi said.

Second-ranking Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas said Democrats will have to trust Republicans to allow a vote on the worker-assistance plan if the issue is separated from the fast- track measure.

“As you know, trust is in short supply up here, but I am not sure what other option the president or the Democrats who are pro-trade have,” Cornyn said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, spoke Tuesday a “malfunction in the House” and promised that the legislation would eventually pass. “I hope we can achieve what we set out to achieve together,” he said.

Already Passed

Republicans’ proposed strategy would add the fast-track language to a measure that has already been passed by the House and amended by the Senate. The House would pass the bill again and return it to the Senate for a final vote.

The measure being considered as the vehicle for that vote is a public-safety retirement bill, H.R. 2146, sponsored by Representative Dave Reichert, a Washington Republican.

Reichert, in an interview Tuesday, confirmed that leaders were talking about using his bill, which passed the House 407-5 on May 12 and the Senate by voice vote on June 4. He said a final decision hadn’t been made.

Kind said Republicans suggested adding the workers’ assistance to a third trade bill, already passed by the Senate, that would promote commerce with poorer countries.


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Republican leaders in Congress are seeking Democratic backing for a plan to revive President Barack Obama's trade package by adding the proposal to give him fast-track negotiating authority to an unrelated bill. The idea would require support from Democrats, something far...
trade, pact, republicans, democrats, obama, rescue
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2015-32-17
Wednesday, 17 Jun 2015 03:32 PM
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