In President Obama’s first weekly address since Friday’s devastating blow to his trade agenda, the president on Saturday urged the House of Representatives to renew a measure he says “provides vital support, like job-training and community college education, to tens of thousands of American workers each year who were hurt by past trade deals.”
“Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have voted to renew this initiative, but so far, the House of Representatives has chosen to let it expire in just a few months, leaving as many as 100,000 American workers on their own,” Obama warned. “For the sake of those workers, their families, and their communities, I urge those Members of Congress who voted against Trade Adjustment Assistance to reconsider, and stand up for American workers.”
On Friday, Democratic lawmakers in the House helped undermine legislation aimed at shoring up the administration’s ability to negotiate a sweeping multinational trade pact. The overall deal at the core of the debate, the Trans Pacific Partnership, would expand U.S. trade relationships with more than a dozen Pacific nations. Obama has argued that the agreement would inject a new global vitality into American markets and boost job creation.
To get to a deal, the administration pushed for Trade Promotion Authority — commonly known as “fast-track” authority which would give the president the ability to negotiate a trade deal with other countries without Congress amending it. The vote on that measure was 219-211.
However, well into the debate, in a dramatic turn of events, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced on the House floor that she would be voting against a measure intended to shield workers who might be adversely affected by the trade deal and the measure giving the president “fast track” authority. Shortly after, the House voted 302 to 126 against the financial assistance for displaced workers measure. Both measures needed to pass in order to move the trade package forward.
In his Saturday remarks, the president heralded the legislation as “the right thing to do,” promising it held the potential to help “grow opportunity for our middle class” and “make sure that every American who works hard has a chance to get ahead.”