Congress OKs worker re­train­ing

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Lisa Mas­caro lisa.mas­caro@latimes.com

WASHINGTON — Congress gave fi­nal ap­proval Thurs­day to a pro­gram that pro­vides funds for re­train­ing work­ers who lose their jobs to over­seas trade, a key com­po­nent of Pres­i­dent Obama’s trade agenda.

The Trade Ad­just­ment As­sis­tance bill, which is now on its way to the White House, be­came tan­gled in a po­lit­i­cal de­bate over giv­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion fast- track au­thor­ity to ne­go­ti­ate trade deals, in­clud­ing the emerg­ing 12- na­tion Trans- Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

Ear­lier this month, House Democrats, who typ­i­cally sup­port the as­sis­tance bill, voted against it as a way to block a com­pan­ion bill au­tho­riz­ing fast- track au­thor­ity.

But af­ter a stand- alone fast- track bill cleared Congress on Wed­nes­day, Democrats had lit­tle rea­son to con­tinue their op­po­si­tion to the as­sis­tance mea­sure. The House voted 286 to 138 on Thurs­day to ap­prove the mea­sure.

Pas­sage was en­sured af­ter Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi ( D- San Fran­cisco) an­nounced her sup­port. Pelosi helped block the bill two weeks ago as part of the failed Demo­cratic strat­egy against fast- track.

Obama has said he hopes to sign both bills to­gether. The worker re­train­ing pro­gram has been a long- stand­ing fea­ture of trade pol­icy, but was set to ex­pire Sept. 30.

Repub­li­cans op­pose spend­ing funds on worker train­ing, call­ing the pro­gram in­ef­fi­cient and waste­ful. The pro­gram was at­tached to a pop­u­lar bill to give trad­ing pref­er­ences to goods from sub- Sa­ha­ran African na­tions.

Most Repub­li­cans voted against the com­bined bill Thurs­day, but more than 100 joined most Democrats to en­sure pas­sage.

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