ObamaTrade temporarily stalled, Fast Track passes

In what may eventually be no more than a stalling action, the House failed to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), stopping “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the time being.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had remained silent for weeks on the trade issue, went to the House floor shortly before the vote to speak against the free trade deal.

After TAA failed, the House approved fast-track legislation, known as Trade Promotion Authority, in a 219-211 vote. But that vote was largely for show, because enactment of TPA is contingent on approval of TAA.

The House could vote again on TAA next week. If enough votes flipped to pass it, it would mean that TPA prevailed as well, because the two bills are interconnected.

House Republican leaders say they have 100 votes for TAA, and Democrats would need to provide 118 if another vote happens. On Friday, Democrats provided 40 votes for TAA, while 86 Republicans supported it. In other words, Democrats would need to essentially triple their vote total to pass the measure.

This weekend will likely see a great deal of additional prodding by the Obama Administration to get additional votes for TAA, which may be easier done then if it was trying to drum up votes for the already passed TPA.

Democrats in general support TAA as it provides relief to workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. Presently at issue is where the funding should come from, as TAA as it is written now would divert funds from Medicare.

If TAA can be rewritten to get funding from elsewhere it will almost certainly receive overwhelming democratic support and thus unlogjam TPA.

Politically, setting the votes in the succession that they were voted on, first TAA then TPA, provides political cover to democrats who have been hard pressed by Obama, special interest groups and constituents.

A democratic member who today voted for TPA has been promised assistance from Obama if they have a primary challenger in next years election, among many other personalized individual promises.

If that member also voted against TAA, they can portray this to angered constituents and pressure groups that “they did” vote against ObamaTrade, but had to later swing their vote when vital assistance to needy workers was put in jeopardy.

It is a cynical and transparent gambit, but it is the one most likely to lead to the passage of TPA and open the floodgates of ObamaTrade.