The U.S. House narrowly approved, 218-208, a six-year renewal of trade promotion authority in an ongoing effort to revive President Obama’s trade agenda in the face of stiff Democratic opposition.
Republicans, working closely with the White House, are executing a new strategy to pass the authority, also known as TPA or “fast track,” as well as trade adjustment assistance (TAA), an aid program for displaced American workers.
Last week, House Democrats voted down TAA, a program they historically support, in a concerted strategy to derail fast track. The two bills’ fates were linked to each other because they passed as one piece of legislation in the Senate last month.
Now, House Republicans will send the fast track bill back to the Senate, where supporters hope they can muster the 60 votes necessary to pass it as a standalone measure. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged to bring trade adjustment assistance back to the floor soon after fast track passes.
The White House is eager to enact TPA because it provides an expedited process to get trade bills through Congress, allowing them only to be approved or rejected, not amended. Obama has made trade a significant focus of his foreign policy legacy in his final months in office.