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Congressional Dems push trade program to help workers

House and Senate Democrats are making a push to renew a program, before it expires at year's end, that would provide job training for those who have lost work because of foreign trade.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Big bank CEOS to testify before Congress in May Democrats get good news from IRS MORE (D-Ohio) introduced on Thursday a Senate companion bill on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that would provide for a long-term extension of the program while expanding training and reemployment services to 2009 levels.

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"While some are talking about eliminating barriers for big corporations through more NAFTA-style trade deals, they’re willing to create barriers for unemployed workers by allowing TAA to expire," Brown said in a statement.

"This bill would provide long-term certainty to support and advance our workforce while encouraging growth," he said.

Brown's measure would extend the TAA program through the end of 2020 and return funding to 2009 levels — $575 million for financial assistance and expertise to help manufacturers become more competitive.

Despite the late push, any action during the lame-duck session is unlikely.

Republicans have been skeptical of funding TAA in the past and they have been rebuffed on their calls for Democrats to support trade promotion authority (TPA), which they say would smooth the negotiating process on two huge trade deals, boosting the chances they reach Capitol Hill.

Commerce Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE told Bloomberg Television on Thursday that "there's enormous support on the Hill for TPA and growing."

House Democrats — Reps. Adam Smith (Wash.), Sandy Levin (Mich.), Derek Kilmer (Wash.) and Charles Rangel (N.Y.) — who introduced their measure in March, welcomed the Senate bill.

"Both the House and Senate TAA bills provide critical work training, income support and health care to help dislocated American workers transition and learn new skills for new careers in competitive industries,” the House Democrats said in a statement.  

“This vital assistance helps American workers and businesses adapt and compete in a rapidly evolving world economy."

The TAA program was last renewed in 2011, when Congress approved three trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Democrats argue that more than 2 million U.S. workers have received assistance from the TAA program in the past 40 years.

They say nearly 105,000 workers, from all 50 states, were eligible for aid last year.

They also cite statistics that show that 75 percent of workers in the TAA program got a job within six months of completing it and 90 percent of them kept their jobs.

TAA provides training assistance and income support while in training and job search and relocation assistance. 

Additional programs assist farmers, fishermen and manufacturing firms with the development and implementation of business plans to enable them to regain a competitive foothold in the economy.