June 14, 2015

House Deal To Pass Trade Promotion Authority Collapses

In a dramatic series of votes last Friday, the U.S. House failed to pass legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). Under the House rule adopted a day earlier, the House could not pass TPA reauthorization without TAA. Since Republicans generally oppose the program, TAA extension needed significant support from Democratic lawmakers to pass, and to allow TPA to move forward. 

In an effort to build this support, President Barack Obama traveled to Capitol Hill Friday morning to urge members of the Democratic caucus to support both bills. Those pleas were not enough. Shortly after the conclusion of the meeting, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on the House floor that she would vote against the TAA bill. Leader Pelosi’s caucus coalesced behind her, rather than the president, and a bill to extend TAA failed 126 to 302. Just 40 Democrats voting for the measure. 

As noted above, TPA reauthorization was dependent on TAA approval, but House Republicans leaders opted to move forward with a symbolic vote on Trade Promotion Authority anyway. That measure passed on a 219 to 211 vote. While the vote doesn’t allow the legislation to move forward, it does indicate there is slim majority support for TPA renewal in the House. After the votes, House leaders said Friday’s actions won’t be the last on this matter. Despite those statements, however, it’s unclear how they plan to move forward or when they might bring up the bills on the floor again. 

While the TAA/TPA combination failed, the House did approve a customs bill called the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. Representatives voted 240 to 190 in favor of that legislation. The Senate passed a similar measure last month, but there are differences between the two bills. First, the House bill lacks Senate language that would allow require the Commerce Department to investigate allegations of currency manipulation and consider countervailing duties to address it. The House bill also includes a provision that says trade agreements cannot be used to address climate change. The Senate bill does not include this language. 

House and Senate lawmakers will now have to meet in a conference committee to resolve these differences. MSCI is hopeful lawmakers will add the Senate-passed currency language back into the bill when they convene that committee. MSCI will advocate for that action and will argue that failure to include this provision would put hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs at risk and weaken the United States’ negotiating position by sending a message to potential trading partners that our federal leaders won’t hold them accountable. (As written, the House-passed customs bill would also strengthen the federal government’s ability to fully investigate dumping by other countries. MSCI strongly supports this language as well.) 

If the conference committee agrees to the Senate-passed currency provision, MSCI will urge final passage of the customs bill and Trade Promotion Authority. Click here to see a summary of the customs legislation.