August 9, 2022

White House and Congress Clear Hurdle for Trade Deals

WASHINGTON — The White House struck a deal with House Republicans Tuesday to reinstate benefits for workers who lose jobs to foreign competition, addressing a major obstacle to consideration of three free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Haggling over the modest and obscure benefits program had tied up the trade pacts for months, pitting Democrats concerned about the impact of competition on American workers against Republicans eager to boost foreign trade but loath to increase federal spending on another aid program.

But the deal does not assure that Congress will pass the pacts, which are major ingredients in the Obama administration’s recipe for reinvigorating economic growth. Indeed, Republicans quickly said they would continue to insist that the benefits program should be considered separately from the trade agreements, a condition Democrats describe as unacceptable.

The Obama administration, which had maintained for weeks that it would not submit the trade pacts to Congress until the deadlock was resolved, by Tuesday night found itself defending its new deal as an important step that might lead to a complete resolution.

“As a result of extensive negotiations, we now have an agreement on the underlying terms for a meaningful renewal of a strengthened” benefits program, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said in a statement. Other administration officials hastened to clarify that that deal did not extent to the question of how that agreement might be approved.

Senator Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, said that he would convene a hearing Thursday morning, launching a process that could end with the bills passing into law before the end of summer.

“We think this package can get the support needed to become law,” Mr. Baucus said. “American workers and our economy can’t afford for us to wait any longer to move forward.”

Senate Republicans, however, said they would seek to strip the benefits program from the legislation by asking the Senate Parliamentarian to rule that its inclusion does not comply with Senate rules, because it is not sufficiently related to the main subject of the legislation. Such a ruling would effectively kill the bill.

Senator Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, said that the White House’s strategy “risks support for this critical job-creating trade pact in the name of a welfare program of questionable benefit at a time when our nation is broke.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a16b39b984cb1e50babe7b00a622f74e

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