Senator calls for talks to end Korea bill dispute

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2011 3:44 PM
Senator calls for talks to end Korea bill dispute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican senator called on Monday for talks between the Senate and House of Representatives to resolve differences that threaten congressional approval of a Korea trade deal.

"I formally request that a 'mock conference' be scheduled in the near future so that we may continue to uphold our constitutional role in regulating trade with other nations," Senator Orrin Hatch said in a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders of both chambers.

The request follows sessions last week in both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to vote on nonbinding amendments to a draft version of bills to implement the trade agreement with South Korea and two other deals, with Colombia and Panama.

The sessions, known as "mock markups," are a traditional first step in congressional consideration of trade agreements.

But the sessions produced two different versions of the Korean legislation -- one approved by the Democratic-led Senate Finance Committee that includes Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, and one by the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee that does not.

The 50-year-old TAA program provides retraining and income assistance to workers who have lost their jobs because of trade. It was expanded in 2009 to cover more workers, but those increased benefits expired early this year.

Hatch, the top Republican on the Finance committee, argued that lawmakers from both chambers should now hold a conference to determine how to handle the problem, rather than leave it to the White House to decide.

The White House has signaled to business groups that it intends to submit the version with TAA included.

Many Republicans strong object to that and want a separate vote on TAA, which they consider too costly and inefficient.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Philip Barbara)