By Erik Wasson
Baucus hires Murray staffer as trade fight heats up
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has hired a senior budget committee staffer to help him craft major trade legislation expected to move in the coming months.
Baucus announced Monday that Jason Park is joining the committee to focus on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and customs issues. Park has served as tax counsel to the Senate Budget Committee, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Park is jumping from one burning issue to another. The budget committee staff is aiding Murray as she tries to negotiate a deal by Dec. 13 to avoid another government shutdown in January. Tax revenue is at the heart of that negotiation and staffer Alex Brosseau is now the lead Murray tax staffer on conference committee.
In his new capacity, Park will be at the center of a debate over whether TAA extension should be part of any new fast-track trade negotiating authority.
Baucus has called for the two to be linked and in July introduced a bill with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to extend TAA through 2020.
"Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance are two sides of the same coin, and together they make trade work. Passing both is critical to America’s trade agenda," he said.
TAA provides funds for individuals that can show they have suffered job losses due to free trade agreements.
President Obama is seeking Trade Promotion Authority in order to finalize trade deals with a group of Pacific nations and with the European Union.
Under TPA, any deal Obama signs would typically be guaranteed an up-or-down vote without amendments by Congress, though that was violated when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) orchestrated a change in the House rules to prevent a vote on President Bush’s Colombia free trade agreement.
The Obama administration has pushed for TAA to be included, prompting a denunciation from the conservative Club for Growth.
Park previously served as a legislative counsel for Murray and is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School.
"Jason has been an important, trusted and long-serving member of my team and, most recently, has played a critical role in our work here in the Senate on budget issues over the past few years. While I am sorry to see him go, I am very glad he won’t be going too far and will be continuing his service here in the Senate," Murray said in an emailed statement.