Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The ABCs of TPA, TAA, and TPP

By Caroline Baum

Confused about the trade deal currently under consideration by Congress? Feeling a bit rusty on the acronyms for various trade-related measures? Join the club. This user's guide should provide you with everything you need to know to follow the play-by-play.

On Friday, the House of Representatives did not reject a measure authorizing President Barack Obama to negotiate free-trade deals without congressional interference. (That would be Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, otherwise known as "fast track.") Nor did the House nix the free trade deal the United States is negotiating with 11 Pacific-Rim countries, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

What the House rejected by a vote of 126-302 was something called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program that provides help - job training, extended unemployment benefits, health care subsidies - to workers who are adversely affected by a trade agreement.

"We want a better deal for American workers," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in announcing her intention to vote "no" on TAA. Only 40 Democrats voted in favor of the measure. Some members opposed the measure because of a proposal, eventually scrapped, to pay for TAA with modest cuts to Medicare providers. But by and large, the no-vote was simply an attempt "to slow down fast track," as Pelosi said.

So the Democrats voted no on the one element of any trade deal that they support whole-heartedly.

Got it? Let's move on.

Immediately after voting down TAA, the House passed TPA on a largely Republican party-line vote of 219-211. Yes, the same GOP that doesn't trust Obama to dispense Halloween candy has now given him blanket authority on trade.

Just to review: We have House Democrats opposing worker assistance, not to mention their president, and House Republicans supporting Obama.

Read the rest here,

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