Demonstrating once again how fluid the situation is
, the House Republican leadership is pondering whether to call for a standalone vote on fast-track trade legislation without a companion bill to aid workers displaced by trade agreements, according to Politico. It was the vote on that aid bill—called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)—that took down fast-track legislation last week. Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan report
A vote on Trade Promotion Authority could come as early as this week, though a final decision hasn’t been made, according to several senior Republican lawmakers and aides.
Holding another vote this week would be a gamble. Republicans would almost certainly need Democrats to pass the legislation, and it’s not clear how many of them would vote for a fast-track bill without accompanying legislation providing aid for workers who lose their jobs to trade, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance. TAA failed last week, after 144 Democrats voted against it. A standalone fast-track bill could also face Democratic opposition in the Senate.
Democratic tacticians pushed the vote against TAA as a means of blocking TPA, a move that was heartily endorsed by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka even though the aid program was established 41 years ago by Democrats and renewed since with their strong support to help ameliorate job harm caused by trade agreements. Republicans have consistently opposed it as wasteful welfare. Left-of-center critics in and out of Congress have argued that the program—which provides job training, assistance with health coverage and other aid—is underfunded and contains other problems as well.
The trouble for the Republican leadership isn't just in the House. Defeating a standalone TPA bill in the Senate would take a switch of just three of the 14 Democrats who voted last month for the TPA legislation when it was accompanied by the TAA bill.
But despite a standalone bill's underwhelming odds of success, it's not as if the White House, fast-track-favoring Democrats and Republicans have much choice. After mulling all the options Monday, it was decided not to hold a revote on TAA Tuesday because there seemed no way to shift the scores of votes needed to change Friday's outcome.
12:09 PM PT: The House easily passed a measure on Tuesday to give lawmakers through the end of July to figure out how to pass President Obama's trade agenda.
The extension, attached onto a "rule" establishing parameters for floor debate on an unrelated intelligence authorization bill, sailed through on a vote of 236-189. [...]
The House can now vote again on trade anytime through July 30 under the current extension. Congress is expected to be in recess throughout the entire month of August.