House Passes Trade Assistance Act

by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos

TPPWith only six Democrats opposed, the House of Representatives favored the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) program Thursday in a 286-138 vote. There were 175 Democrats and 111 Republicans in favor. The Senate passed TAA Wednesday.
The program provides modest financial and job-training help to workers displaced by trade agreements. It was passed as an amendment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which extends trade preferences until 2025 for a number of African countries. If the legislation had not passed, the TAA program would have expired at the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

Two weeks ago, in a tactical move designed to block fast-track trade legislation, the vast majority of House Democrats had voted against TAA. They did it because, under a procedural rule, if TAA failed, fast-track legislation could not be sent to the president.

A subsequent move by President Obama and Republicans separated the TAA from fast-track legislation, called Trade Promotion Authority. The House then passed TPA and the Senate followed suit. Republicans—who have opposed TAA as a wasteful, redundant form of welfare ever since the progam was invented by Democrats in the 1970s—promised that they would pass TAA. That was done as a means to keep the 14 Senate Democrats who had voted for TPA the first time onboard for the second vote.

Labor leaders, adamantly opposed to TPA for years, had previously urged House members to vote against TAA when it appeared such a move could be used to stop the fast-track legislation from reaching the president’s desk. But with that tactical approach in tatters this week, labor advocates did not push for a second vote against TAA.

“We do not have confidence that the White House would hold out for a stronger TAA bill if this one were to fail,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka wrote to members Wednesday. “Therefore we urge you to vote your conscience, and we will respect your decision, whatever it may be.”
Left-of-center critics of the program say TAA doesn’t not provide nearly enough aid to workers who lose their jobs because of trade agreements. And the reauthorized program contains 20 percent less funding than previously. Vicki Needham and Cristina Marcos report:
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said she would support the TAA-AGOA bill even though she thinks the worker assistance program isn’t as robust as needed considering the size of the massive Asia-Pacific agreement.
“I wish we had a better TAA, and I certainly do not want to vote against AGOA,” Pelosi said.

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