Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday blamed Senate Democrats for keeping back a trade bill that holds the promise of more U.S. jobs, and said President Obama must work harder to sell the idea to Senate Democrats.
Speaking on the House floor, Boehner said a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill is "in the works" in the House. Passage of the TPA would authorize the administration to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and bring it back to Congress for an up-or-down vote, without amendments that would complicate the negotiation process.
"Unfortunately, like many of our jobs bills, his party's leaders in the Senate are standing in the way," Boehner said. "The president needs to use his bully pulpit only as the president can, and change their minds."
"I certainly hope and expect he will help us move this bill forward on behalf of American workers," he added. "Otherwise, all the talk about a year of action would appear just to be another broken promise."
In late January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he opposes the TPA, commonly called "fast-track" trade authority.
"Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now," he said last month.
Reid called the legislation “controversial,” and cast several votes against trade deals during former President George W. Bush’s administration.
Trade has split Democrats for several years now, as many argue trade deals promote business interests at the expense of labor and environmental issues. Since Obama mentioned trade in his State of the Union address, several Democrats have said they fear the TPP agreement would hurt U.S. job creation by promoting the import of goods from countries without U.S.-style labor and environmental protections.
Boehner said the TPA holds the promise of increased job creation for American workers and that companies could gain increased access to foreign markets.
"Around the country, from our farms to our factories, this means jobs," he said of TPA. "It means making it easier for our workers, including the 1.4 million Ohioans whose jobs depend on trade, to be able to compete with China and the world's growing economies."