Senate Republicans have upped the ante with President Obama in the long-running battle over pending free trade deals. The President is demanding renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance before he’ll send the pending Free Ttrade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea - worth billions of dollars and thousands of jobs - to Congress for approval:
But now the Senate GOP - led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky - has fired back with its own add-on…
“I’m offering an amendment that will grant this president…this president Trade Promotion Authority through 2013, the same term that the democrats are insisting that we reauthorized Trade Adjustment Assistance.”
Republicans are trying to point out that Obama - while talking up trade and jobs - has not requested the power to make and move trade deals through Congress on up or down votes without changes. But McConnell admits Senate Democrats probably won’t go along:
“Now, you’re going to hear democrats arguing that we haven’t had enough time to carefully consider this expansion of Trade Promotion Authority and work on the negotiating objectives that we usually include in the bill. So, I would remind them that I first called for TPA last May.”
Key Democrats complained more trade deals that cost jobs are not needed - but rather help for displaced workers - which cleared a parliamentary hurdle Monday on an 84 to 8 vote.
Compounding the free trade deal process further is the total lack of trust on both sides as evidenced by this statement from Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch:
“Still the administration refuses to provide any real assurance that it will actually send the pending Free Trade Agreements to congress for a vote. Now, I’m very disappointed that we still haven’t heard definitively that we haven’t heard from the White House that they will send up the three FTA’s.”
Trade lobbyists in D.C. say the President has held back the deals until he could be sure Republicans would act on his demand for Trade Adjustment Assistance.