In re-vote, US House passes key trade pro­mo­tion bill


U. S. law­mak­ers voted Thurs­day to give Pres­i­dent Barack Obama fast- track au­thor­ity to ne­go­ti­ate a ma­jor trans- Pa­cific trade ac­cord, mov­ing it closer to his desk af­ter a dra­matic de­feat last week.

Trade Pro­mo­tion Au­thor­ity ( TPA) nar­rowly passed the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives by 218 votes to 208 as a stand- alone bill, af­ter con­gres­sional lead­ers un­cou­pled it from a worker- as­sis­tance pro­gram that crashed to de­feat Fri­day when most Democrats voted against it in or­der to block the trade pack­age.

TPA now heads to the U. S. Se­nate, where it could re­ceive a vote as early as next week.

Hold­ing the vote so soon af­ter last week’s block­age — a ma­jor em­bar­rass­ment for Obama, whose Democrats largely de­serted him — sig­naled Repub­li­can con­gres­sional lead­ers’ con­fi­dence they have suf­fi­cient votes to get the en­tire pack­age across the fin­ish line.

Only 28 Democrats sup­ported the mea­sure, with 158 vot­ing against, along with 50 Repub­li­cans.

House Speaker John Boehner of­fered lit­tle in­sight into what may have prompted the break­through.

“We’re com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that both trade pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity and trade ad­just­ment as­sis­tance pass the House and Se­nate and go to the pres­i­dent for his sig­na­ture,” Boehner said.

“Get­ting this work done is crit­i­cal to ex­pand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can work­ers and Amer­i­can- made goods.”

TPA would boost Obama’s chances of fi­nal­iz­ing a sweep­ing trade ac­cord with 11 other Pa­cific na­tions. He could then bring it to Congress for an upor- down vote, with law­mak­ers not given a chance to mod­ify it.

Many Democrats are con­cerned the trade deal would lead to a shed­ding of Amer­i­can jobs.

See­ing lit­tle prospect of block­ing TPA, which is widely sup­ported by Repub­li­cans, they lined up en masse against the TAA bill, which needed to pass for both bills to reach the pres­i­dent.

Hur­dles re­main. Top House Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi warned on Thurs­day that she “can’t pre­dict” that both bills would clear both cham­bers.

“I don’t see a path right now for TAA,” she told re­porters.

‘ Crit­i­cal’ for US Econ­omy

Obama had hud­dled with pro­trade Demo­crat law­mak­ers at the White House on Wed­nes­day on the side­lines of the con­gres­sional pic­nic, stress­ing he was ready to do what it takes to get the mea­sures over the fin­ish line.

“He re­it­er­ated his com­mit­ment to work­ing with lead­ers in Congress to pass both TPA and TAA and made clear that he will only back a path for­ward that sends both bills to his desk,” the White House said.

House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan, in an ap­peal on the House floor be­fore the vote, re­minded mem­bers that “the world is watch­ing us.”

Ryan ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment that Democrats blocked the pack­age last week, but warned “we’re not go­ing to be dis­cour­aged.”

“En­act­ing trade pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity is crit­i­cal for our econ­omy and for our na­tional se­cu­rity, and so we’re go­ing to get it done here to­day,” he said.

Ryan and oth­ers spoke about Amer­ica los­ing ground to its trade part­ners and com­peti­tors on the global stage, not­ing that since TPA lapsed in 2007 there have been 100 agree­ments world­wide, none of which have in­cluded the United States.

The Pa­cific trade agree­ment un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion would com­prise an es­ti­mated 40 per­cent of global trade, a mas­sive pact with Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, Canada, Chile, Viet­nam and other coun­tries.

Sup­port­ers high­light TPA’s 150 ne­go­ti­at­ing pri­or­i­ties for the United States, in­clud­ing pro­vi­sions on la­bor rights, the en­vi­ron­ment, state- owned en­ter­prises and ef­forts to curb cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion by other na­tions, which crit­ics say has led to the loss of mil­lions of U. S. jobs.

Pro­gres­sive group Democ­racy for Amer­ica blasted the “turn­coat Democrats” who voted for TPA on Thurs­day, say­ing it will rally sup­port to oust them from Congress in 2016.

“We will make cer­tain that your vote to fast track the de­struc­tion of Amer­i­can jobs will be re­mem­bered and will haunt you for years to come,” DFA chair­man Jim Dean said.

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