Tags: Barack Obama | house | vote | fast | track | trade | authority

House Sets New Vote on Giving Obama Fast-Track Trade Authority

By    |   Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:36 PM

Nearly a week after House Democrats dealt President Barack Obama an embarrassing blow to his trade agenda, representatives will vote Thursday on a separate measure that seeks to give him fast-track authority.

The scheduled vote comes after the House voted down a measure last Friday to renew retraining assistance to Americans who lose their jobs because of foreign trade agreements.

That vote was 126-302, with 144 Democrats voting against the aid, called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and organized labor, blocked what is normally considered a party priority in order to kill the overall fast-track legislation, called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Republicans broke 158-86 against TAA. However, a symbolic fast-track vote subsequently passed the House, 219-211.

On Tuesday, the House set a July 30 deadline to pass the assistance bill. That could be voted on Thursday after the new fast-track vote.

President Obama needs the authority to complete a trade agreement with 12 Pacific nations.

Most Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, support giving the president fast-track, while others argue that it would cost American jobs.

Under TPA, Congress could only approve or reject any agreements but not amend them.

The Senate passed both pieces of legislation last month. If fast-track is approved Thursday, it would be sent to the Senate for consideration.

The House needed to pass both bills last week in order to put the legislation on Obama's desk for his signature.

But Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said late Wednesday that he would oppose any effort to grant Obama fast-track authority.

"It is essential that there be no misunderstanding: fast-track pre-approves the formation of not only the unprecedentedly large Trans-Pacific Partnership, but an unlimited number of pacts over the next six years," said the Republican, who is in his fourth term.

Sessions voted against both measures in the Senate last month because of the jobs issue and argued that it gave Obama too much latitude in negotiating trade deals. Fast track also undermined the U.S. Constitution, which requires a two-thirds Senate vote on treaties.

The senator said Wednesday that some of the trade agreements coming after the Pacific accord included one between the United States and the European Union and another that would permit global labor mobility among more than 50 nations.

"Together, these three international compacts encompass three-fourths of the world’s GDP," Sessions said. "Including the nations whose membership is being courted after enactment, the countries involved would encompass nearly 90 percent of global GDP.

"Yet, through fast-track, Congress will have authorized the president to ink these deals before a page of them has been made public," he added. "Then, the executive sends Congress 'implementing' legislation to change U.S. law — legislation that cannot be amended, cannot be filibustered, and will not be subjected to the Constitutional requirement for a two-thirds treaty vote."

President Obama has worked feverishly since Friday's stunning defeat to attract as many as 100 Democrats to support his trade agenda.

He held two meetings with pro-trade Democrats at the White House on Wednesday to try to firm up their support for the rescue strategy. The discussions were scheduled so hastily that they took place just before the annual White House picnic for lawmakers.

"There are times where people have deep, principled disagreements, but I hope that events like today remind us that ultimately we're all on the same team, and that's the American team," Obama said in brief remarks at the picnic.

In the meetings, Obama restated his commitment to working with leaders in Congress to get both bills to his desk, the White House said.

Top Republicans also spent Wednesday trying to garner Democratic support for a plan to add fast track to another piece of legislation for consideration.

The situation marked a rare alliance between Republicans and Obama to get fast track — and, eventually, the assistance renewal — passed.

"We are committed to ensuring both TPA and TAA get votes in the House and Senate and are sent to the president for signature," Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement late Wednesday.

Under the strategy conceived by the top Republican leaders and the president, the aid for displaced workers would clear Congress separately from the fast-track bill, as part of legislation that would renew rules for commerce with African countries and Caribbean Basin nations.

Boehner and McConnell hope to have both bills passed before lawmakers begin a scheduled July 4 vacation at the end of next week. The goal is to blunt any attempt by opponents to administer a final defeat to the legislation.

However, organized labor showed few signs of retreat. Leaders have long argued that international trade deals inevitably cause the loss of U.S. jobs.

AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuel said Wednesday that the strategy contemplated by Republican leaders and the White House could leave the worker-aid package languishing in either the Senate or the House, requiring GOP leaders to somehow guarantee it would pass.

"It still presents the same problem: Trust us, and we will get it done," he said.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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Nearly a week after House Democrats dealt President Barack Obama an embarrassing blow to his trade agenda, representatives will vote Thursday on a separate measure that seeks to give him fast-track authority.
house, vote, fast, track, trade, authority, barack obama
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:36 PM
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