Free-trade agreements topping jobs agendas

Now, the Senate must take now take up the GSP bill — where it has broad support — attach the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a worker assistance program the White House is insisting passes with the trade deals, and then send it back to the House. 

The idea is that the White House would then send the trade deals to Capitol Hill, allowing for four votes in the House, one on each of the trade accords and a final one on the combined GSP-TAA bill. Then the House would send all four bills back to the Senate before they are sent to the White House for the president's signature. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that until the House passes TAA, his chamber won't take up the trade deals. 

"Unless TAA passes the House, we're not going to take up any of the trade bills,” Reid said. 

That move could provide the guarantee the White House needs to send the trade bills to Congress.

Reid met Wednesday night with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Rob Nabors, the White House's legislative liaison, saying beforehand, "I think we have a way forward."

Reid acknowledged Speaker John Boehner's willingness to pass TAA and the trade deals together but expressed concern about that happening, saying it was possible that something could go awry. 

From here, it's difficult to know how long that process will take, but the long-delayed FTAs will probably linger at the White House into October, mostly because Congress has a packed schedule and is short on time this month. 

To that end, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Thursday it will step up efforts over the next six to eight weeks to ensure that all the bills — the FTAs and TAA — pass. 

The Chamber has vowed support for the trade deals, including them in its jobs-creation proposal released Monday, as well as the streamlined version of TAA worked out by the White House, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). 

On Thursday, the Chamber launched a "Beltway ad campaign" promoting the benefits of the deals and arguing that failure to pass the agreements puts 380,000 jobs at risk, according to a Chamber blog post.