Updated 7:09 p.m.
One week after Senate Republicans boycotted a committee meeting on three long-stalled trade deals, the panel’s chairman set a new date Wednesday for the consideration of the South Korea, Panama and Colombia pacts.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced that the panel will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday to take up the proposals. The planned meeting will take place on the same day as the House Ways and Means Committee considers them.
But the Senate panel will include the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for workers who have lost their jobs through outsourcing as part of the deals, while the House committee will not.
“It is past time to get this package moving,” Baucus said in a statement. “Right now, our competitors are gaining ground in these vital markets, and jobless Americans in need of opportunities are left waiting while these trade agreements languish. The trade agreements will grow our economy and create jobs by opening new markets to American ranchers, farmers and small businesses, and the bipartisan deal on TAA will ensure U.S. workers have the help and opportunities they need to adapt and thrive in the global economy.”
Both the Senate and House panels plan to conduct “mock” markups of the trade deals, meaning that committee members may propose amendments to the deals but that any final changes to the pacts will ultimately be up to the White House.
Republicans have objected to the attachment of the TAA renewal to the South Korea deal, arguing that the $1 billion program — which has attracted bipartisan support in the past — should not be a condition of the trade agreements’ submission to Congress. Democrats and the White House, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pushed for TAA to be included with the three deals, contending that separating it out from the trade agreements may imperil the renewal’s chances of passage.
The Chamber and a coalition of other business groups sent a letter Wednesday to the leaders of Senate and House committees, urging quick approval of the trade deals and TAA.
“These trade agreements would create tens of thousands of jobs for American workers and farmers — and benefit businesses both large and small — all across the nation,” the letter reads.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who led last week’s boycott of the Senate Finance Committee meeting, said Wednesday that he planned to attend Thursday’s meeting.
“While Republicans continue to believe that adding TAA to the trade agreements is an abuse of long-standing trade rules, tomorrow members will have the time to fully examine and consider our trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, and if desired, offer amendments,” Hatch, the committee’s top Republican, said in a statement.