House Republicans on Thursday put their weight behind White House-backed trade legislation that would pave the way for passage of sweeping global agreements.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved a trade promotion authority (TPA) measure — 25-13 — with only two Democrats lending their support to the bill, highlighting the difficulty President Obama is having courting members of his own party.
As expected, Democratic Reps. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindWisconsin governor seeks to intervene in redistricting case Retail group backs minimum corporate tax, increased IRS enforcement LIVE COVERAGE: House panel launches work on .5T spending package MORE (Wis.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Bottom line American workers need us to get this pandemic under control around the world MORE (Ore.) backed the measure.
Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.), Ways and Means chairman, argued that TPA, also known as fast-track, “gets us a seat at the table to write the rules on the global economy” and said Congress must pass the measure or risk the failure of the ambitious trade agenda.
Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyFormer lawmakers call on leadership to focus on unity Partial disengagement based on democratic characteristics: A new era of US-China economic relations Lobbying world MORE Jr. (R-La.) argued "the world is not standing still” and that economic activity is moving at “a furious pace in Asia and around the world.”
“We need to be sending the signal that American leadership is back … [and] we're back fully engaged in economic foreign policy,” he said.
The House’s action follows the Senate Finance Committee’s approval by a 20-6 vote — with seven of the panel’s 12 Democrats favoring its version of the bill — late Wednesday night, setting up floor votes in each chamber sometime next month.
Approval of the legislation bolsters Obama’s plans to forge far-reaching trade deals from Europe and Latin America to the Asia-Pacific, which represents more than 60 percent of the world economy.
The bill guarantees the 12 trading partners of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the 28-nation Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that U.S. lawmakers won’t alter their agreements. Congress would, however, have a chance to vote on approval of the measures.
Liberal House Democrats adamantly opposed to the legislation say their dissatisfaction of the overall trade agenda stems from the potential loss of U.S. jobs under the new trade deals.
They say similar international trade pacts have disappointed in the past and contributed to job losses and wage stagnation at home.
“These trade deals have sucked the air out of the room we call our nation,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the panel’s top Democrat, said that TPP “negotiations are not on the right track.”
Levin’s attempt to make wholesale changes to the Ryan bill fell through the cracks after his substitute amendment was ruled out of order because it crossed committee jurisdictions and thus never got a vote.
A frustrated Levin, who protested the decision, kept making his case.
“What’s happening here is trying to use a point of process against major policy, that is a major mistake,” Levin told the committee.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who along with other House Democratic leaders supported Levin’s amendment, had blasted Republicans earlier in the day for using procedural moves to deny a vote on Levin’s alternative.
Pelosi criticized the Ryan bill as "a pothole" in the road to a TPP that ensures protections for the environment, food safety and workers rights. Still, she stopped short of saying she'll vote against the TPA measure if it reaches the House floor in its current form.
“I’m not telling you how I'm voting on anything because we don't have anything to vote on yet,” she said.
Meanwhile, the president is imploring skeptical Democrats to focus on what is actually in the trade agreements before making a final decision.
His efforts have become more insistent this week with action percolating on Capitol Hill.
On Thursday, the president said pursuing the new trade deals is “the right thing to do” regardless of whether they are unpopular with labor unions and liberal Democrats.
“When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don't know what they're talking about,” he said during a fiery speech at the Organizing for Action summit in Washington.
“I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.”
Republicans who are aligned with Obama on trade share the belief trade will grow jobs, expand the economy and solidify the U.S. presence in the Pacific Rim.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio), a strong backer of Obama's trade agenda, said Thursday he is working to get his members on board, but said, “in order to accomplish our goal, we're going to need some bipartisan support.”
“This bill has strong support from House Republicans. We'll do our part, but the president must do his part, as well,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE said.
Vote-counting is ongoing, but Boehner's comments acknowledge Republicans will require Democratic help to reach the 218 votes needed in the House to pass the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday “it's my hope to pass it during the current work period,” which is before Memorial Day.
During the markup, Democrats proposed 19 amendments to the legislation, which was brokered by Ryan and Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchCongress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 MORE (R-Utah) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenA Democratic plan to wipe out independent contractors Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Want a clean energy future? Look to the tax code MORE (D-Ore.).
The provisions included stricter anti-currency manipulation measures and new rules aimed at strengthening the government’s regulatory safeguards. All of them failed.
Ryan offered an amendment at the end of the markup that incorporated two amendments adopted by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday night.
One discourages boycotts, divestments and sanctions by European countries against Israel and would allow negotiators to raise the issue in the TTIP talks.
The other raises human rights to the status of a principal negotiating objective.
The panel did not consider a third amendment by Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden, don't punish India Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (D-N.J.) that would not allow fast-track for certain countries on the State Department’s list of human traffickers. The list includes Malaysia, which is one of the TPP partners, according to Menendez’s office.
Besides fast-track, the House panel approved a Trade Adjustment Assistance bill that helps those who have lost jobs to trade, renewed the African Growth and Opportunity Act and a measure that lowers tariffs for some developing nations as well as a customs and enforcement bill.
— Updated at 9:51 p.m.