I posted last week that the House rule which the GOP leadership had put forward to split the vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for fast-track authority had to be rescued by a handful of pro-free trade Democrats who switched their votes to pass the House rule by a single vote. Both bills would have to pass under the House rule in order to approve fast-track authority. The failure of either bill would spell defeat for fast-track.
It was all to no avail the next day as Democrats, using the TAA vote to torpedo the TPA, and Republicans who are always opposed to providing any assistance to workers displaced by their blind devotion to free trade, combined to overwhelmingly reject the TAA bill. While the TPA bill later passed, it was purely symbolic after the defeat of the TAA bill under the House rule.
The White House dismissed the vote as a procedural “snafu,” and the TanMan, Weeper of the House John Boehner, vowed that he would bring fast-track back for reconsideration in a vote this week.
Today the TanMan threw a temper tantrum with his insurrectionist GOP caucus, and kicked the can down the road into July for reconsideration of the vote for fast-track authority.
The Hill reports, Boehner takes his retribution:
House GOP leaders booted three members off the whip team for voting against a procedural rule that structured how a critical trade package was brought to the House floor last week.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) informed Reps. Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Trent Franks (Ariz.) on Monday that they were no longer a part of the GOP’s vote-counting operation, a source close to the whip team confirmed.
Wouldn’t it be sweet if they could just boot Trent Franks out of Congress altogether! That is up to Arizona voters who don’t bother to vote — you slackers!
Scalise’s decision was based on longstanding whip team rules that stated members must “vote as a team on procedural matters” but are free to vote against leadership on underlying legislation, the source said.
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National Journal first reported on Scalise’s decision.
It came on the same day Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) chastised nearly three dozen Republicans for voting against the trade rule last Thursday.
“I made it pretty clear to the members today I was not very happy about it,” Boehner told reporters after a closed-door meeting with rank-and-file members at the Capitol Hill Club. “You know, we’re a team. And we’ve worked hard to get the majority; we’ve worked hard to stay in the majority.
“And I expect our team to act like a team, and frankly, I made it pretty clear I wasn’t very happy,” he added.
In the meeting, Boehner told his fellow Republicans it was “nonsense” that some of them had voted against leadership, according to a GOP lawmaker in the room.
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The large number of GOP defections on Friday’s rule vote nearly scuttled the trade package before it even reached the floor. Thirty-four Republicans, mostly conservatives, voted no, objecting to the way the package was put together.
It wasn’t until a handful of pro-trade Democrats voted yes that the rule narrowly passed, on a 217-212 vote.
The rule split the Senate-passed trade package into parts, including separate votes on a bill to aid workers displaced by trade and another to grant President Obama fast-track authority to complete major trade deals.
The fast-track bill, known as trade promotion authority, narrowly cleared the House on a bipartisan vote. But because of the rule, it will not be sent to Obama’s desk because Democrats rallied to defeat the aid bill in order to derail the overall package.
The House voted on a new rule on Tuesday that would allow GOP leaders to bring back the workers aid bill (TAA) for another vote by July 30. House votes to extend trade fight into July:
The House easily passed a measure on Tuesday to give lawmakers through the end of July to figure out how to pass President Obama’s trade agenda.
The extension, attached onto a “rule” establishing parameters for floor debate on an unrelated intelligence authorization bill, sailed through on a vote of 236-189.
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Votes on rules are tests of party discipline. Even members of the minority party who support the underlying legislation usually vote against the rule.
Three Democrats voted for the rule in a departure from what is usually a partisan roll call: Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Jim Costa (Calif.).
The six Republicans in opposition to Tuesday’s rule were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Walter Jones (N.C.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Bill Posey (Fla.).
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Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) set up a process last week allowing the House to conduct a do-over of the failed vote on aid for workers displaced by trade deals, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). Under House rules, the chamber would have had to vote again by Tuesday absent an extension.
The House can now vote again on trade anytime through July 30 under the current extension. Congress is expected to be in recess throughout the entire month of August.
In addition to this maneuvering, the House GOP is eyeing a new strategy for trade vote:
House GOP leaders are considering holding a vote as early as this week on a stand-alone bill granting President Obama fast-track trade authority, a senior leadership source said.
The legislation would not include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program that provides billions in funding for American workers harmed by trade. Free-trade foes thwarted renewal of TAA last week in a bid to kill fast-track.
The House passed TPA on a narrow 219-211 vote, with 28 Democrats backing the measure. [The vote was only symbolic. The result may be different if the vote is binding.]
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Passing the TPA stand-alone bill in the House would decouple the legislation from the aid bill, kicking the trade issue back to the Senate, which last month passed a trade bill that included both TPA and TAA.
“We didn’t create this mess,” the senior leadership source told The Hill. Voting on a stand-alone TPA bill “would be the most likely scenario.”
“It would then require the Senate to figure out what to do with TAA later,” the source said. “Clearly they felt like putting the two together added votes in the Senate. On this side of the Capitol, we found that adding it in there subtracted votes.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday said the White House strongly supports the worker aid program, but didn’t rule out accepting fast-track legislation without it.
“At this point, I don’t want to go into the legislative options being discussed,” Earnest said.
This strategy appears doomed to fail, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explained today in the Morning Plum:
The problem here is simple: Almost no House Democrats support Fast Track, so they won’t back TAA to enable it; and too few Republicans are willing to support worker assistance, even to get a trade bill.
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House Republicans could simply hold a vote on the Senate-passed bill, which contains TAA and Fast Track (GOP leaders had previously split the votes in two, in order to get them both passed).
But the problem in passing this out of the House is the same: A lot more Democrats would have to vote for Fast Track; or a lot more Republicans would have to vote for worker assistance.
The latest proposed option, passing the TPA stand-alone bill in the House to decouple the legislation from the TAA aid bill, and kicking the trade issue back to the Senate would face the same obstacle. The TPA vote last week was only symbolic after the defeat of the TAA bill. There may not be enough Democratic votes in the House for a stand-alone TPA bill if that vote is binding. It’s prospects in the Senate are even less. Democratic votes in the Senate for the trade bill were contingent on the TAA aid provisions. Strip out those provisions, and the Senate will lose Democratic votes. There are not 60 votes for cloture of debate in the Senate to get to a vote on a stand-alone TPA bill.