Senate and House to vote on trade deals Wednesday

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 06, 2011 8:13 PM
Senate and House to vote on trade deals Wednesday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives and the Senate will vote next Wednesday on three long-delayed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, congressional leaders said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Thursday the Republican-led House will vote on the three deals on Wednesday and later Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Democratic-led Senate will vote that day as well.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is due at the White House for talks with President Barack Obama on Thursday, October 13, giving lawmakers a reason to push for final congressional approval ahead of the visit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed Reid's announcement, saying it would give Lee the opportunity to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday "having, hopefully, seen the United States approve these long-awaited trade agreements."

The dash to pass the trade deals follows years of political deadlock over the agreements, which date back to the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.

The three deals are expected to boost U.S. exports by about $13 billion annually, which the administration estimates will help create or support tens of thousands American jobs.

Obama submitted the deals to Congress on Monday, after winning a final assurance from Republicans that the House would also vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal assistance program for workers displaced by foreign competition.

The House Ways and Means Committee gave its stamp of approval to the three pacts on Wednesday and the Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve the deals on Tuesday.

The three pacts were delayed for years because of issues raised mostly by Democrats, but Obama has worked to address those concerns over the past 15 months.

The Colombia deal was signed nearly five years ago and the other two more than four years ago.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer and Susan Cornwell, Editing by Neil Stempleman and Vicki Allen)