John Boehner set to move ahead on trade – Politico
Speaker John Boehner plans to bring a package of trade bills to the floor Friday, despite lingering disagreements with House Democrats.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, wading into the fast-track trade fight for the first time publicly, spent all week pressing Boehner to change the package, which passed the Senate last month. First, she pressed Boehner (R-Ohio) to abandon a bipartisan plan to use Medicare savings to pay for a training program for people who lose their job due to free trade.
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Eager for the passage of the trade bills, Boehner agreed to drop that offset and revert to more stringent tax restrictions to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). Pelosi then objected to how Boehner planned to advance that budgetary offset. Boehner then agreed to change the floor process to a plan suggested by Pelosi.
Boehner’s move is a a risk because he needs Democratic support to pass nearly every element of this trade package. Senior GOP leadership aides say Obama will be key in the coming days, as he must press Democrats to vote for the bills. House Democrats will meet privately Thursday at noon.
“Republicans are going to do our part, but the president will have to deliver on TAA to get this done,” said Kevin Smith, Boehner’s communications director.
The House’s plan is a bit complex, but Boehner is betting it will win a significant amount of Democratic support.
The House will begin votes Thursday. First, the House would bring up a trade “preferences” bill under expedited consideration. This bill would include the newly stringent tax restrictions, which would effectively cancel the Medicare offset Pelosi objected to. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will pass that legislation quickly.
Then, the House will vote on a procedural “rule” bill, which would include the already nullified Medicare cuts. The House will then vote Friday on TAA — if that fails, the whole process collapses. If TAA passes, the chamber will vote on the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority. The next vote will convene a House-Senate conference on a customs bill.
Boehner’s move comes as key Pelosi allies are raising new concerns about the package, just a day and a half before floor consideration. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a close Pelosi ally who is opposed to giving Obama fast-track trade authority, is now raising objections to a different offset for the job training program, called Trade Adjustment Assistance. DeLauro is expressing concerns about closing a so-called loophole to the child tax credit for high-income expatriates. Republicans say high-income expatriates can “exclude” more than $100,000 in income from U.S. taxes, and collect child tax credits meant for lower income Americans.
Pelosi’s involvement here is key, because Republicans cannot pass TAA without significant Democratic support. Pelosi is likely to vote for TAA, according to sources. She met Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients on Wednesday afternoon to discuss some of these issues.
Obama needs this package to pass in order to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal. And senior GOP aides say its time for the president to step in and break the impasse.