House approves stand alone fast-track bill, sent to Senate

Stop-TPPAs I posted earlier this week, House GOP leaders scheduled a vote this week on a stand-alone bill granting President Obama fast-track trade authority.

The legislation would not include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program that provides billions in funding for American workers harmed by trade. Passing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) stand-alone bill in the House would decouple the legislation from the aid bill, and kick the trade bill back to the Senate. A later vote would be taken on a stand alone TAA bill.

The House today barely passed the stand alone TPA bill. House approves fast-track 218-208, sending bill to Senate:

The House on Thursday took the first step toward resuscitating the White House’s trade agenda by passing legislation granting President Obama fast-track authority.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the White House and GOP leaders are seeking to strike a deal with pro-free trade Democrats.

The House vote was 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting for it.

[Roll Call Vote No. 374: Yes: Franks, McSally, Salmon, Schweikert – No: Gallego, Grijalva,  Kirkpatrick, Sinema –  Not Voting; Gosar.]

House Democrats have historically favored TAA, but they voted against it last 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 problem lies in the Senate, which previously approved a package that included both bills.

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.

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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.

Democrats opposed to the trade package expressed frustration that GOP leaders were bypassing them.

“Instead of cooperation, they’ve opted to use procedural tricks to pass the TPA,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

As promised, all 28 pro-free trade House Democrats supported the bill again.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said on Wednesday that those who backed the trade agenda are “really committed” to getting fast-track and TAA done.

Now that the two bills have been decoupled, the question is whether there are enough pro-free trade Senate Democrats willing to support a stand alone fast-track bill, trusting Republicans to bring up the TAA bill later. Congress would then have to pass TAA, which should happen because now that it has been decoupled, Democrats cannot stop fast-track by voting against it, and Democrats actually support the TAA.

President Obama wants both the TPA and TAA bills. It’s beginning to look like he may get his way.

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