The White House on Tuesday praised the Senate for advancing the fast-track trade bill but hedged on whether President Obama will wait to sign it until a separate measure providing workers aid is approved.

“The president has made clear both of them are a priority,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “I don’t have a time frame to lay out for you right now in terms of when the president will sign one bill or the other.” 


The Senate is expected to hold a final vote Wednesday on fast-track, which would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. After 61 senators voted “yes” on the procedural motion on Tuesday, it is expected the bill will be approved.

House Democrats earlier this month had sought to block the fast-track bill by voting against Trade Adjustment Assistance, which had been attached as part of a complicated legislative maneuver.

Now that the two bills have been separated, a vote in the House against TAA — which is being merged with a trade preference bill for African nations — would not halt fast-track.

Earnest urged Democrats to support the TAA measure, saying it can no longer be used to block the fast-track bill. 

He said this week is Democrats’ “last chance” to reauthorize TAA, a program they have supported in the past.  

“It strikes me as akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face,” Earnest said of Democrats who would vote against the TAA measure to kill fast-track, which is also known as trade promotion authority (TPA).

“It shouldn’t have to come to that, Earnest said of the possibility of signing TPA without TAA, adding there is a “clear path” for both to reach Obama’s desk. 

“It’s the president’s intent to sign both of these pieces of legislation into law.”