Both chambers of Congress passed all three free trade agreements on Wednesday, along with the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill. (TAA) While the Colombia, South Korea and Panama trade agreements were fast-tracked through Congress in an apparent move to appease President Obama’s wishes for a photo-op with the S.Korean President whom is visiting the White House today, there was some Democratic opposition to the agreements. Most House Republicans supported the trade agreements while many House Democrats opposed them, while in the Senate several Democrats joined with Republicans to get the bills passed and sent to the President for signing into law.
The exact vote totals were 278-151 for South Korea, 300-129 for Panama and 262-167 for Colombia. The Senate votes were 83-15 for Korea, 77-22 for Panama and 66-33 for Colombia.
One aspect of the free trade agreements that seems to be lost in the shuffle is that these trade agreements were originally signed by President G.W.Bush and sat on President Obama’s desk for three years before being sent to Congress. If these trade agreements will indeed create millions of jobs for Americans as is being stated by President Obama as “a major win for American workers and businesses,” then the long delay in sending them to Congress is simply inexcusable. What could have been behind the delay? What was Obama angling for? Was he holding these free trade agreements hostage for some form of political advantage?
Ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that the House vote on the Senate-passed China Currency bill which House Republican leaders now oppose. In a move that explains why Barack Obama delayed in trying to move these trade bills, we see that in order to address Democratic objections to the deals, the White House demanded linking the trade bills to extension of a Kennedy-era program that helps workers displaced by foreign competition with retraining and financial aid. The Senate went along, and the House passed it Wednesday, 307-122. (TAA) The FAA bill (hr 2832) is a gift to Obama and the Democrat’s UNION bed-pals as I wrote about here.
The trade agreements include Panama, South Korea and Colombia. This deal now includes gifts for Unions via the Dept. of Labor’s innocuous-sounding TAA bill. (Trade Adjustment Assistance) These trade agreements have been sitting on Barack Obama’s desk since 2009 when the G.W. Bush administration finalized them. Why the long delay in sending them to Congress for debate and passage? If we look at the orginally linked article above, we see that just last week big labor Unions vehemently opposed these trade agreements:
“The deal sets up a bruising fight within the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate, which are divided over trade. Most of organized labor opposes all three trade deals, which were negotiated by the Bush administration and have been dormant for years.” (emphasis mine)
So there we see big labor screaming objections to the free trade agreements that Obama said would be a major win for American business and workers.
So just how could the TAA bill be interpreted as a gift for Unions and big labor? First of all, after Congress agreed to the passage of the TAA bill, Unions then stopped protesting these trade agreements. Isn’t that a coincidence? Secondly, just what is the TAA bill? Again I refer to my previous article on the TAA bill:
Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA) help trade-affected workers who have lost their jobs as a result of increased imports or shifts in production out of the United States. Certified individuals may be eligible to receive one or more program benefits and services depending on what is needed to return them to employment. (sounds good enough there)
First of all this TAA program is run by Obama appointee Hilda Solis‘ dept of labor–They will be saying who gets these benefits. Apparently if you do not belong to a GROUP, ( think union) don’t bother filing for any of these benefits, as we see next:
To obtain TAA or ATAA services and benefits, a group of workers must first file a petition with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance (OTAA) requesting certification as workers adversely affected by foreign trade. If certified, each worker in the group may then apply separately for individual services and benefits through their local One-Stop Career Center. ( emphasis mine)
This points to as to why unions are all of a sudden happy with these trade agreements. Hilda Solis is in charge of dishing out these “benefits.” Her main agenda of 2010 was stated as to enact some 90 new rules and regulations to give more power to unions. Now Solis and her dept of labor can also hand out plenty of cash to her beloved Unions thanks to the TAA payouts stuffed into the trade agreements. Did I mention that her father was a teamsters shop steward in Mexico? No conflict of interest there, when she was appointed to head the Dept of Labor, especially seeing that she was a board member of the pro-union American Rights at Work.
. A few more interesting TAA benefits from their website:
Up to 130 weeks of cash payments for workers enrolled in full-time training Up to 156 weeks of cash payments if the worker is also enrolled in remedial or prerequisite training.
Job Search Allowances 100% of allowable costs, up to $1,500
Job Search Allowances 90% of allowable costs, up to $ 1,250
Relocation Allowances 100% of allowable costs Provides an additional lump sum payment of up to $1,500
What is the cap on how many taxpayer dollars will be funneled to the “groups” under the FAA bill? How much will we be borrowing to pay for it? Did Barack Obama hold all three free trade agreements hostage by demanding the Union payoff that is innocently disguised as the TAA bill? Apparently so as we see here in an article from TheHill.com:
Under an agreement with the Senate and the White House, House GOP leaders will call a vote on a renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation on Wednesday, immediately after the House approves trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Extending TAA, which provides health insurance, worker training and other benefits to U.S. workers negatively affected by foreign trade, has been a Democratic priority, and the Obama administration for months refused to submit the three trade deals for congressional ratification without assurances from Republican leaders that the adjustment assistance would be renewed. The TAA program expired in February.
In summary, we saw that Barack Obama held the free trade agreements hostage in able to give (the TAA bill) big Union labor massive kickbacks, which were also demanded by Democrats in Congress. My own Florida Congressman Dennis Ross summed it up quite well, in a letter to Speaker Boehner, which fell on deaf ears:
In June, freshman Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) circulated a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urging him not to allow Democrats to “hold hostage” trade agreements to win passage of the TAA, which he likened to “welfare spending” and socialism.
Footnote: Didn’t Congress promise to make all legislation available to We the People a minimum of three days prior to passage? While the original bill was available online for years, the changes made to it were not made available 3 days prior to passage. You can see the bill here.
Liz Berry sums it up pretty well in her blog post titled: The American Majority Were Officially Sold Out Today.
While many pundits say that Republicans have supported the TAA bill in the past, they did not in fact support the 172 changes mostly made by Senate Democrats to this latest version of the TAA bill. This is what happens when America refuses to pay attention to what Congress is doing today, while also ignoring what many of us are trying to warn them about, while these bills are being “fast-tracked through Congress for Obama’s photo-op with the President of S.Korea” today. 2012 just can’t get here fast enough.