Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted the Obama administration Monday after the White House announced that it will not move forward on three key trade deals unless Congress agrees to move forward on extending a program for workers whose jobs were displaced because of outsourcing.
“The trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama have been held up by the administration for years and I was encouraged at the recent movement in the White House to act,” McConnell said in a statement Monday afternoon.
“So it was more than surprising that the President’s staff would again threaten to delay their implementation — particularly when the President himself agrees with us that these agreements will create jobs here in America,” he continued. “Our economy needs jobs and growth, not an ever-expanding list of reasons to delay the creation of those jobs.”
McConnell added that he hopes Obama will reconsider the decision and “not allow anything to get in the way of Congressional consideration of these trade agreements and the jobs they’ll create.”
The White House’s move on Monday represented the latest in the back-and-forth between both parties over the three long-stalled trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and other White House officials announced in a conference call with reporters Monday morning that the administration would not allow the three trade pacts to progress unless lawmakers worked out a deal on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
“The administration will not submit implementing legislation on the three pending FTAs until we have an agreement with Congress on the renewal of a robust expanded TAA program, consistent with the objectives of the 2009 Trade Adjustment Assistance law,” National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said on the call.
The submission of the trade deals would be contingent not on Congress’s passage of a TAA extension, but rather on an agreement between the White House and congressional leaders that Congress will move forward on TAA, administration officials said Monday. The issue has been a point of contention between the White House and Congress for months.
The TAA program, which provides job training and other aid to workers who have lost their jobs because of competition from abroad, was expanded in 2009. That expansion expired in February.
In March, Senate Republicans threatened to hold up the nomination of a new commerce secretary to succeed Gary Locke until Obama submits the Colombia and Panama trade deals to Congress.