Using procedural sleight-of-hand, the House passed Trade Promotion Authority legislation that would facilitate the passage of trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and could lead to guest worker increases without congressional input. The measure now moves to the Senate, where it could face a filibuster during debate next week.
Today's 218-208 margin roughly paralleled the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) vote last week. 190 Republicans and 28 Democrats supported the measure today while 50 Republicans and 158 Democrats voted against it. But this time around, the measure will see further action in the Senate because House Republican leaders delinked TPA action from the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill, which provides aid to American workers who are displaced by trade deals.
To expedite consideration, Republican leadership decided to use an unrelated measure (H.R. 2146) as a vehicle for moving TPA. They gutted the bill, which was awaiting a concurrence vote after being amended in the Senate amendment, and inserted TPA. This is the sort of procedural sleight-of-hand that Republicans had objected to Democrats using when they held the House majority.
The legislative maneuvering necessitates another vote on TAA but this time in the Senate. The Senate initially approved TPA as part of a package under H.R. 1314 that included TAA. Since TAA is considered critical to the few Democratic Senators who support fast-track, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may decide to move a trade preferences bill that contains TAA before taking up H.R. 2146. That bill would then get a House vote before the Senate votes on fast-track.
McConnell will need the help of at least 12 Senate Democrats to overcome an expected filibuster attempt. Last week in the House, Democratic TPA opponents blocked passage of the worker aid bill knowing it would take down the entire package. Senate Democratic opponents may use the same strategy. And since TPA will be delinked from the worker aid bill, it will be even harder for Senate Republican leaders to get Democrats on board.
“This is going to be a little exercise in trust here,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Tex., told reporters. “I think the assurances that the leaders made are ones that people can rely on. So those who voted for the trade agreements when they were combined should have confidence that we are going to move TAA, too.”
Like last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., issued a statement ahead of the House fast-track vote. He wrote:
"It is essential that there be no misunderstanding: fast-track preapproves the formation of not only the unprecedentedly large Trans-Pacific Partnership, but an unlimited number of such agreements over the next six years...After TPP comes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [and] the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), seeking as one its goals labor mobility among more than 50 nations...Yet, through fast-track, Congress will have authorized the President to ink these deals before a page of them has been made public. Then, the Executive sends Congress “implementing” legislation to change U.S. law — legislation which cannot be amended, cannot be filibustered, and will not be subjected to the Constitutional requirement for a two-thirds treaty vote.
"This nation has never seen an agreement that compares to the TPP, which forms a new Pacific Union. This is far more than a trade agreement, but creates a self-governing and self-perpetuating Commission with extraordinary implications for American workers and American sovereignty. Such a historic international regulatory Commission should never be fast-tracked, and should never be put on a path to passage until every word has been publicly scrutinized, every question answered, and every last power understood by Congress and the American people.”
Read more in Politico.
Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:33pm EDT