House Republicans have postponed Tuesday night's planned vote to extend two expiring trade provisions, in part because they do not believe the Obama administration has shown enough commitment to advancing the U.S. trade agenda.
Republicans had planned a vote to extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA), which lowers duties on imports from Andean countries, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which helps U.S. workers hurt by overseas competition. The TAA program is widely supported by Democrats, and some Republicans were known to be pressing for a White House commitment to move ahead with the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements (FTAs) before allowing a vote on TAA.
House aides said Tuesday that the vote has been postponed for this reason, and that a vote has not been rescheduled at this point.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) will have an opportunity to press the administration on the FTAs in a Wednesday morning hearing on the administration's trade agenda, where U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will testify. Camp will also speak about efforts to expand trade at an Institute for Policy Innovation event tomorrow morning.
Congress has very little time to approve extensions for the two trade programs before they expire on February 13. The Senate was anticipating a House vote this week, and just Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE (D-Nev.) said the Senate would try to approve the extension bill on Thursday night by unanimous consent.
President Obama spoke at the Chamber of Commerce Monday and said he would "pursue" the Colombia FTA, but several Republicans criticized that speech for not being more definitive. The administration has indicated it is not ready to bring up the Colombia FTA because the votes are not there in the Senate due to complaints about union violence in Colombia. Republicans have retorted that violence has been reduced, and that the U.S. is missing out on a chance to build closer ties with a key ally in South American by not concluding the agreement.