TPA Reloaded: House Narrowly Passes Fast-Track On TPP, Heads To The Senate

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 18, 2015 12:53 PM
TPA Reloaded: House Narrowly Passes Fast-Track On TPP, Heads To The Senate

The House is taking another stab at expanding trade powers for President Obama. A procedural vote to start debate on trade promotion, or “fast-track,” authority for the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership passed 244-181. House Democrats blocked the president’s trade legacy by voting down the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) provision, which helps workers detrimentally impacted from trade. It’s typically supported by Democrats, but was voted down 302-126 last week in order to kill the bill; the House was debating the Senate bill that was passed with TAA/TPA being a packaged deal. A failure to pass just one of those provisions would prevent the legislation from heading to Obama’s desk for signature due to parliamentary differences. This new renewed push doesn’t include the TAA provision, but promises a vote to extend the program, which expires in September in a separate vote (via Roll Call):

The House is set to vote Thursday on Trade Promotion Authority, with GOP leaders employing procedural maneuvers and indirect promises to make sure the bill eventually gets signed into law.

Pro-trade lawmakers are moving ahead with a vote on TPA without Trade Adjustment Assistance, which aids U.S. workers displaced by international trade.

The success of their plan hinges on whether Democrats who voted for TPA will still support that measure without immediate certainty they’ll also get TAA, which trade opponents voted down on June 12 to derail the entire package.

The Rules Committee, which voted Wednesday afternoon to set parameters for Thursday floor debate on TPA, used as a legislative vehicle a bill that originated in the House and was amended by the Senate, so it can get speedy House consideration and then, upon passage, avert a procedural speed bump in the Senate.

Democrats who voted for TPA and TAA last week looked poised to support the plan, with assurances from top GOP leaders there will be a “near-simultaneous track,” as Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware put it, to pass TAA.

As plans for Thursday votes on TPA solidified, Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to quell any outstanding anxiety.

“We are committed to ensuring both TPA and TAA get votes in the House and Senate and are sent to the President for signature,” the Republicans from Ohio and Kentucky, respectively, said in a joint statement.

Boehner was offering that commitment earlier in the week, inviting pro-trade Democrats into his office for a meeting Tuesday. According to one of the meeting’s attendees, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, Boehner told the group of Democrats there would be a vote on TAA.

“He didn’t specify how that would happen,” Connolly noted, but he was emphatic that Boehner said, “declaratively,” TAA will pass.

Additionally, the White House is trying to take the mystery out of the equation by saying Obama will only sign TPA if TAA is also part of the trade package.

“The only legislative strategy that the president will support is a strategy that results in both TPA and TAA coming to his desk,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

Politico reported that Obama, McConnell, and Boehner were in communication with one anther concerning legislative strategy over a conference call earlier this week. The House passed the standalone TPA bill 218-208*–with the Senate taking it up next week to get it through before the July 4 recess. Twenty-eight pro-trade Democrats joined 190 Republicans in support of the measure, while 50 Republicans joined 158 Democrats in opposing it. 

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Senate Democrats blocked the original TPA provision when it was being debated in the Senate. Hence, the reason why the TAA provision was linked to the TPA portion of the Senate bill; a concession that Reid described as “fair.” Nevertheless, it showed that Democrats are lock step behind him, and it’ll be curious to see if Reid trusts Republicans on the future TAA legislation that’s been promised.

Nevertheless, Obama’s trade agenda has been resurrected … for now.

At the same time, Democrats are a bit irked by labor's antics over TPA/TPP regarding attacks against there fellow party members.