Rep. Capuano on today’s votes on trade | New NY 23rd

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)

The trade bills this week were considered under a Rule that prohibited any amendments.  Unlike the Senate, which at least had the opportunity to improve and amend the bill put forward, the House was not allowed to offer a single amendment. Under this Rule, the House considered a motion related to Title II of H.R. 1314 renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance Programs, which are intended to help workers who lose their employment as a result of increased trade. Some sectors of the economy are more significantly impacted than others. These programs have been providing education, training, and other assistance for years. Unfortunately, this legislation just doesn’t go far enough to assist impacted workers. Public sector employees, for example, whose jobs might be outsourced are not eligible to receive any assistance through these programs.  Furthermore, in a cynical political maneuver, this proposal was tied to Fast Track (see below).  If this passed, Fast Track would pass.  In effect defeating TAA was the only way to stop Fast Track. I voted NO. The motion FAILED to pass.  Under the Rule, because the House did not pass the motion, the overall bill, including Fast Track, fails unless the vote on TAA is reversed.

Rep. Reed voted AYE as expected.

Note: Immediately after TAA failed, the Speaker made a motion to reconsider the vote next week.  His hope is to switch enough votes so TAA passes, thus allowing Fast Track to move forward to the President’s desk.

“Fast Track”/Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)

Even though the TAA portion failed, the House still voted on the TPA portion.  As you may know, Congress will soon consider two trade agreements. Historically, Congress has had the authority to agree, reject, or amend any proposed trade agreements submitted for ratification. If amended, the President was then required to re-negotiate the agreements to incorporate the changes made.

The Obama Administration, like past Presidents, requested Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), more commonly known as “Fast Track”.  I do not support TPA because it significantly limits the voice of the legislative branch. By approving TPA, Congress agrees to give up its right to amend the trade agreement and instead simply takes an up or down vote on it. In this case, the House voted to grant TPA before any trade agreement was even finalized. 

I think it is unwise for any Member of Congress to surrender our constitutional responsibilities without knowing exactly why this step is necessary and what specifically Congress is agreeing to. I voted NO. The motion for TPA passed, though the overall bill failed, and the entire vote is recorded below:

Rep. Reed voted AYE as expected.

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