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Posted at 08:49 PM ET, 09/22/2011

Senate passes Trade Adjustment Assistance extension, paving way for trade deals

The Senate on Thursday passed a measure renewing an aid and retraining program for workers who lost their jobs due to outsourcing, a move that clears the way for congressional passage of three long-stalled trade deals.

Thursday’s renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program passed the Senate on a bipartisan 70-to-27 vote, with three members — Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) — not voting.

Voting in favor of the measure were 53 Democrats and 17 Republicans. All 27 “no” votes were Republicans.

Members of both parties have previously supported the $1 billion TAA program, but after its expiration in February — and given the increasing concern among lawmakers about the country’s rising debt — leaders reached a stalemate over the program’s renewal.

The impasse was cleared over the past several weeks with the agreement that the House would only move forward on TAA once the White House had submitted to Congress the three trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated that point in a statement after Thursday night’s Senate vote.

“We await the president’s submission of the three trade agreements sitting on his desk so the House can consider them in tandem with the Senate-passed (legislation),” Boehner said. “If the president submits these agreements promptly, I’m confident that all four bills can be signed into law by mid-October.”

Boehner also hailed the “months of hard work” by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who had worked with the White House and congressional leaders on a final agreement on the trade pacts and the TAA renewal.

Baucus called Thursday’s vote “a major victory for American workers and a key step forward in our efforts to approve the job-creating free trade agreements.” Camp praised the Senate vote and noted that “the next step is for the president to promptly submit the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which also enjoy bipartisan, bicameral support, to the House and bring us one step closer to passage.”

Both chambers are to recess at the end of the week, setting up House action on the trade pacts during the first week of October at the earliest.

By  |  08:49 PM ET, 09/22/2011

 
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