The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Boehner: No House action on Senate TAA bill until free-trade pacts sent to Congress

The Senate today paved the way for congressional consideration of the pending free-trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama by passing a bill that extends trade adjustment assistance for workers and farmers hurt by international trade. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House will not take up the trade adjustment bill until President Barack Obama formally sends the agreements to Congress for consideration.

By a vote of 70 to 27, the Senate passed a bill that extends the generalized system of preferences (GSP), which lowers costs for U.S. manufacturers and retailers by giving them duty-free access to components, with the addition of a trade adjustment assistance (TAA) amendment sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have insisted that trade adjustment assistance be passed before a vote on the trade agreements, because the assistance is not popular with Republicans and the Democrats and labor unions have feared that if the trade agreements receive votes first, the trade adjustment assistance measure will not pass.

The White House delayed sending the free-trade agreements to Congress until there was action on TAA, but Boehner said in a news release that the House will not act on the GSP/TAA legislation until the president submits the agreements to Congress.

“The bill that passed the Senate today is the result of months of hard work by House Ways and Means Committee chairman [Dave] Camp, R-Mich. and Chairman Baucus,” Boehner said.

“We await the president’s submission of the three trade agreements sitting on his desk so the House can consider them in tandem with the Senate-passed GSP/TAA legislation,” Boehner said. “If the president submits these agreements promptly, I’m confident that all four bills can be signed into law by mid-October.”

The legislation passed today reauthorizes TAA retroactively from Feb. 12, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2013. It also extends GSP retroactively from Dec. 31, 2010 through July 31, 2013.

“The Senate’s action is an important step toward renewal of the generalized system of preferences and enactment of trade adjustment assistance reforms and the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in a news release.

“Discussions continue with congressional leadership on how these bills will move through the legislative process," Kirk said. "The trade agreements, along with trade adjustment assistance, are an integral part of the president’s plan to create jobs here at home. The resident looks forward to their prompt passage."

Farm groups have pressed for passage of the free-trade agreements and have been largely silent on trade adjustment assistance.