What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Aid to Workers Negatively Impacted Upon by International Trade Agreements : (H.R. 2832) On an amendment that would have prohibited dislocated workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance (TAA, which provides job retraining to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of trade agreements) unless their job loss was “substantially caused” by a free trade agreement (2011 senate Roll Call 144)
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(H.R. 2832) On an amendment that would have prohibited dislocated workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance (TAA, which provides job retraining to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of trade agreements) unless their job loss was “substantially caused” by a free trade agreement
senate Roll Call 144     Sep 21, 2011
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would have prohibited dislocated workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance (TAA, which provides job retraining to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of trade agreements) unless their job loss was “substantially caused” by a free trade agreement. (Under current law, trade only needed to be a contributing factor to the job loss in order for a worker to qualify for TAA.) Hatch urged support for his amendment: “My amendment is fairly simple. It tightens the nexus between TAA benefits and actual jobs lost because of trade. It does this by changing the eligibility criteria from one that only requires that trade `contribute importantly' to job loss to a more restrictive criteria that the job loss be `substantially caused' by trade. Under the current program, the worker only has to demonstrate that imports from or shifts in production to a foreign country--what many folks would call the ordinary course of business--`contributed importantly' to their job loss. So what does `contributed importantly' actually mean? The TAA Program holds that the contributed importantly standard is met if trade is a cause, which is important but not necessarily more important than any other cause of the job loss. That does not sound like a tight nexus to me, certainly not a tight nexus to trade to me.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) opposed Hatch’s amendment: “I rise in opposition to the Hatch amendment. In a time of surging Chinese imports, high unemployment, and widespread economic pain, the Hatch amendment would make it harder for workers, companies, and farmers to obtain trade adjustment assistance in order to be able to compete in the global economy. Specifically, the Hatch amendment would take Congress back to a standard for qualifying for TAA benefits that was a demonstrated failure in the early 1980s.”

[This amendment was offered to legislation that would extend a non-controversial trade program known as the “General System of Preferences” through 2013. This program allows developing nations to ship raw materials to the U.S. without paying duties on those products. Senate Democrats had brought up the non-controversial General System of Preferences bill with the intention of amending it in order to extend trade adjustment assistance programs through fiscal year 2016.  (The extension of TAA--which provides job retraining to workers who lost their jobs as a result of trade policy--would effectively clear the way for the enactment of free-trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama; President Obama had indicated he would send those agreements to Congress for approval if the House and Senate passed legislation to extend TAA.)]
 
The Senate rejected Hatch’s amendment by a vote of 40-57. 40 Republicans voted “yea.” All 52 Democrats present and 5 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have prohibited dislocated workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance unless their job loss was “substantially caused” by a free trade agreement.

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