World Economy

Obama Trade Bill Passes House

Obama Trade Bill Passes HouseObama Trade Bill Passes House

The US House passed President Barack Obama’s fast-track trade bill, one of the president’s top second-term priorities, with mostly Republican votes a week after a Democratic rebellion almost killed the proposal.

The 218-208 House vote Thursday returns the measure to the Senate, which also voted for it last month. Obama wants the expedited trade negotiating authority to help his administration complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, Bloomberg reported.

Senate action is likely next week, as the chamber has no more roll-call votes scheduled for this week.

Twenty-eight House Democrats, including representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Terri Sewell of Alabama, voted for the measure. And 50 Republicans, including representatives Chris Collins of New York and Daniel Webster of Florida, voted against it.

“This is a vote for a stronger economy and higher wages. This is a vote for our system of free enterprise. This is a vote for American leadership,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, on the floor before the vote.

The measure, known as trade promotion authority, would let Obama submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments. It would give the authority to Obama and the next president for six years as part of a package that revamps US trade policy into the next decade.

 Workers’ Aid

With fast track through the House, attention now turns to how its backers will make good on a pledge to ensure that a separate program aiding displaced workers also is enacted. Passing both measures is a long-standing political agreement between backers of fast track, even though most Republicans oppose it.

House Democrats, who have been supporters of worker assistance, voted against it last week because the vote was legislatively linked to fast track, something that is no longer the case.

A senior House Republican member said that, in private talks, Obama has promised he’d sign fast-track once it’s passed to ensure that House Democrats can’t continue the political linkage between the two proposals. The lawmaker requested anonymity because Obama hasn’t publicly stated this.

 ‘Gone Goose’    

“I see it as a gone goose,” said House Rules Committee top Democrat Louise Slaughter of New York.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which opposes fast track, said in a statement, “We are at the end of the second quarter and the score is tied 1-1.”

“We will fight at every level and in every way to protect American workers and our economy by rejecting fast track and this corporate trade deal,” Trumka said.

In an unusual alliance, most Republicans supported Obama’s argument that the fast-track measure, known as trade promotion authority, would benefit the US economy.

Most Democrats joined with labor unions in blaming free-trade agreements for a decline in US manufacturing jobs.