House Republicans expect bipartisan support for the trade assistance bill

House Republicans expect to overcome conservative opposition this week and pass a worker assistance bill that has been the chief hurdle to completing a trio of bilateral trade agreements.

Under an agreement with the Senate and the White House, House GOP leaders will call a vote on a renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation on Wednesday, immediately after the House approves trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

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Extending TAA, which provides health insurance, worker training and other benefits to U.S. workers negatively affected by foreign trade, has been a Democratic priority, and the Obama administration for months refused to submit the three trade deals for congressional ratification without assurances from Republican leaders that the adjustment assistance would be renewed. The TAA program expired in February.

TAA has garnered bipartisan support in the past, and The Hill reported in May that 11 congressional Republicans have sought help under the program from the Labor Department.

But with concerns mounting over federal spending, conservative resistance forced GOP leaders to pull a bill extending the program from the floor in February. The Heritage Action organization and the Club for Growth, among other groups, have campaigned against the legislation as wasteful spending. In June, freshman Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) circulated a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urging him not to allow Democrats to “hold hostage” trade agreements to win passage of the TAA, which he likened to “welfare spending” and socialism.

House and Senate leaders struck a deal over the summer to link the approval of the trade agreements to an extension of the aid to displaced workers. A failure of the TAA bill would threaten the agreement, since the Senate plans to vote on the trade agreements after the House acts.

A GOP aide said on Monday that Republicans expect “broad, bipartisan support” for the TAA bill on Wednesday and that the party leadership has assured GOP votes for the legislation.

Most if not all Democrats are expected to support the measure. “We expect it to pass with bipartisan support, as it has in the past,” said Daniel Reilly, a spokesman for House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.).

All three trade agreements are also expected to win approval this week, but the deals are expected to win more Republican than Democratic votes.