(H.R. 2832) On an amendment that would have prevented workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance (which provides job retraining for individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of trade agreements) until trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama had been enacted
This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would have prevented workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance (TAA) until trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama had been enacted. TAA provides job retraining for individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of trade agreements.
Hatch urged support for his amendment: “This amendment makes the effective date for additional TAA funding contingent upon the enactment of our free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. It is unfortunate this amendment is necessary. Supporters of this trade adjustment assistance bill tell us that TAA is a necessary precondition to submission of our pending free-trade agreements--a necessary precondition of the President. The president and his supporters say if TAA does not pass, the free-trade agreements will never be sent to Congress for our consideration. I find this logic disturbing. It basically boils down to this: Spend more taxpayer money on one of our pet trade priorities or we will refuse to allow Congress to vote on trade agreements that we know will create jobs. The administration has said it will create 250,000 new jobs. By the way, at a time when unemployment is over 9 percent, I simply can't understand why the president continues to hold up these FTAs [free trade agreements] and their consideration.”
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) opposed Hatch’s amendment: “There are a lot of people looking for work. Today, about 14 million Americans are looking for work. More than 6 million have been out of work for at least 6 months. These Americans are looking to put in a good day's work and looking to provide for their families. At the same time, many employers cannot find enough skilled workers to fill the jobs that are open. It is very difficult, because employers need people with specialized skills….The bottom line is, employers need an educated and skilled workforce. Trade adjustment assistance can help bridge this gap. Trade adjustment assistance can train workers and connect them with employers who are looking to grow their businesses. Let me mention a fellow who has been a big beneficiary who has been helped by this program. His name is Kris Allen. Kris lost his job at Montana Tunnels in Jefferson City, MT, in 2009. Because of trade adjustment assistance, he was able to go to school at Helena College of Technology. He wanted to be a diesel mechanic. He made the dean's list most of the semesters. In May of 2011 he graduated. In fact, he got his degree on a Friday and started work the very next Monday. His new job at a trade company in Belgrade earns him $18 an hour. Kris has not stopped there. He continues to hone his skills at Montana Resources keeping up to date on the latest technology and machinery. In this fast-paced globalized economy, human capital is the key to our country's competitiveness and economic vitality. Americans such as Kris know the benefits of a good day's work, and he could not have done this without trade adjustment assistance.”
[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 44-54. 44 Republicans voted “yea.” All 52 Democrats present and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have prevented workers from receiving trade adjustment assistance until trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama had been enacted.