Obama Will Have to Win Over Two Categories Of House Democrats for TAA Passage

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By Len Bracken

June 12 — President Barack Obama will have to win over two categories of House Democrats to ensure passage of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) when it comes up for a second vote as early as June 16, said Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.).

Connolly, who has been among the House Democrats' most vocal supporters of trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation—the Trade Act of 2015 H.R. 1314)—said the votes will have to come from members:

  • Who were prepared to vote for TAA, but voted against it when they saw the TAA title would be defeated and chose not to antagonize organized labor if they did not need to do so; and
  • People who recognize TPA has been settled and they have a chance to renew TAA and prevent the program from expiring.

Connolly said those in the second category could cite their vote against the bill to organized labor but still vote on the second opportunity to keep the program alive. He expressed confidence that more than the 94 Democrats who voted forTAA would come around when the bill is taken up the second time, and said there were more Republican voters for TAA who switched their votes when they saw the title would be defeated.

The strategy by Democrats to vote against TAA as a tactic to slow down TPA emerged June 10 at the Democratic Caucus meeting, Connolly said. At the caucus, he said, concerns were raised about the cuts to Medicare to fund TAA, but this funding was changed to come from a tax compliance program in a combined trade preference bill (H.R. 1295) that passed June 11. This move, he said, required a compromise by Republicans.

Under the rule, the 219-211 successful-but-symbolic vote on the TPA title of the bill would require a favorable vote on the TAA title of the bill to count—a second vote on TAA will take place June 16 or later, according to Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Connolly Sees No Chance for Better TAA.

Connolly said if the second vote on TAA failed and Republicans crafted a new rule for a vote on TPA without TAA, he would still vote for TPA, but he stressed that it would be “quite tragic” for the program to be eliminated “at the hands ofDemocrats.” He said there was little chance for a “bigger, better” TAA given the Republican control of Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on Democrats to “take stock” ahead of a second vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

“The outcome of today’s TAA vote was disappointing,” Boehner said of the 126-302 vote. “This is an opportunity for the Democratic Party to take stock and move forward in a constructive fashion on behalf of the American people.”

The TAA program, which provides training and assistance to workers displaced by international trade, is the second title of trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation, the Trade Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314). Separate votes were taken on the twotitles of the bill under a rule passed late June 10 that also limited debate on the measure.

Pelosi Votes Against TAA.

In her floor remarks ahead of the votes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is a “big supporter” of TAA, but would vote against renewing the program, which is set to expire in September, to slow down the fast track. She also opposed the limitations on debate, which excluded amendments from the floor, and the amendments to customs legislation (H.R. 644), which passed 240-190 on June 12, that would apply to the negotiating provisions in the TPA bill that would prevent U.S. negotiators from including climate provisions in trade pacts.

“And for that reason, sadly, because the Senate has sent us the bill that way, connected; sadly, because if the fast track passes it will need TAA, Trade Adjustment Assistance; sadly, I would vote against the TAA,” Pelosi said.