House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement after the House failed to pass legislation reauthorizing the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program: "The outcome of today's TAA vote was disappointing. Republicans did our part, and we remain committed to free trade because it is critical to creating jobs and growing our economy. I'm pleased that a bipartisan House majority supported trade promotion authority. This is an opportunity for the Democratic Party to take stock and move forward in a constructive fashion on behalf of the American people."
In principle, most Republicans are in favor of the president's trade agenda.... But most House Republicans weren't willing to spend the $450 million per year contemplated by the Senate bill on Trade Adjustment Assistance. That's why House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was forced to resort to a complicated scheme where Democrats would have to approve TAA while Republicans approved the rest of the bill. If you buy the arguments for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which many Republicans profess to, this seems crazy. One influential study from the Peterson Institute estimated that the trade deal would generate $78 billion of economic benefits for the United States. Of course it's worth taking this kind of projection with a grain of salt. But even if we assume it's exaggerated by a factor of 10, the deal's benefits still dwarf the $450 million annual price tag of TAA.