This was a vote on final passage of legislation that would extend all trade adjustment assistance programs (which provide job retraining for workers who have lost their jobs as a result of trade policy, as well as assistance to U.S. manufacturers that had been adversely affected by imports competition) through fiscal year 2016. The bill also extended a non-controversial trade program known as the “General System of Preferences” through 2013. This program allows developing nations to ship raw materials to the U.S. without paying duties on those products.
The TAA provisions in the underlying bill were intended to effectively clear the way for the enactment of free-trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama. President Obama had indicated he would send those agreements to Congress for approval if the House and Senate passed legislation to extend TAA.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) urged support for this bill: “…This bill addresses our country's most urgent priority--jobs. It helps American workers acquire the skills they need to compete and win in the global economy. It gives American businesses better access to the materials they need to make world-class products, and that is just the beginning. It also opens the door to an ambitious trade agenda, an agenda that will increase U.S. exports, grow our economy, and create jobs. That agenda includes our pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. The first step is to renew the trade adjustment assistance. Trade adjustment assistance has been an essential part of U.S. trade policy for nearly 50 years. When we negotiate trade agreements, we create new economic opportunity and spur growth but also increase competition. TAA helps American workers and businesses meet that competition with job training, income support, health coverage, and technical assistance.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) opposed the bill: “I rise in opposition to this bill before us. It extends the generalized system of preferences program [GSP] for 2 years, as amended and, as amended, expands the trade adjustment assistance program. I want to be clear. I support the underlying bill…that extends the GSP Program. GSP helps American companies compete in the global marketplace while helping developing countries grow their economies and achieve sustainable economic growth to lift their people out of poverty. As I have made clear over the past few days, I have serious concerns with expanding the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program as it has been amended by this bill. We can no longer afford to increase domestic spending on programs that have dubious value and unproven results. That is what this bill will do. I cannot condone this spending, so I will vote no.”
The Senate passed this bill by a vote of 70-27. All 53 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted “yea.” 27 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate passed legislation that would extend all trade adjustment assistance programs through fiscal year 2016, and would thus clear the way for the enactment of free-trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the House would not bring up the TAA bill until President Obama submitted the three free-trade pacts listed above to Congress.