The Corner

The (Maybe Temporary) Trade Failure: Blame Democrats

The House overwhelmingly voted down reauthorizing a program called trade-adjustment authority today that is crucial to sending the major trade bill currently before them, trade-promotion authority, to President Obama’s desk.

Democrats have long insisted that trade adjustment, a program to provide compensation and training for workers who’ve lost their jobs due to foreign competition, be passed alongside trade-promotion authority. The House actually passed trade-promotion authority today (219–211), but voted down trade adjustment easily (301–126). Because the Senate passed the two programs in conjunction with each other, the House essentially has to do so as well in order to send the bill to the president’s desk.

Democrats, somewhat disingenuously, say they wanted to oppose trade adjustment because it wasn’t generous enough. Republicans don’t want to vote for the program, period, perhaps because it doesn’t work. But both sides know the impact of trade-promotion authority vastly outweighs the cost or benefits of trade adjustment. 

#related#The hope now is that, by next week, there will be some way to rally enough votes for trade adjustment to send the major trade bill to the president. The votes, in theory, could either come from Republicans who decide extending an ineffective but tiny program is a price worth paying to advance their trade goals, or Democrats who come to see the president’s argument that trade is more important than increasing government spending a minuscule amount. 

While some Republicans and conservatives have opposed this trade process on ill-informed fears about the trade deal’s secrecy, impact on presidential power, immigration policy, or whatever, the seriously disappointing showing here is from Democrats, scarcely two dozen of whom support President Obama on the issue — and from, of course, Obama himself, who has done little in the way of effective private lobbying or public advocacy for what’s supposedly one of his top priorities.

Patrick Brennan — Patrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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