(Yomiuri: June 19, 2015 – p. 2)
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a trade promotion authority (TPA) bill on June 18, which will allow President Obama to have fast-track authority in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact. But the government and the Republican Party are also seeking to pass legislation on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a workers aid program that was voted down in the House by a majority on June 12. President Obama is taking the stance of not signing the TPA legislation if it does not include TAA. The political tug of war over enacting the TPA bill is now moving into the final stretch.
President Obama urged the Congress to enact the TAA bill when he met with fellow Democrats who support TPA [on June 17]. He stressed, according to a source from the White House, that the enactment of TPA and TAA as a package is “the only direction that I support” and sought their understanding.
Obama is relying heavily on the opposition Republican Party and House Speaker John Boehner to gain congressional support, as his political influence is ebbing. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not being very cooperative [in passing the TPA bill]. The latest scheme [of separating TPA and TAA from the package] was forged through negotiations between Obama and Boehner over the phone.
The passage of the TPA bill in the House [on June 18] is brightening the prospects for TPA passage in the Senate and is also raising the likelihood of passing the TAA bill.
The Congress is in disarray over the TPA legislation not only because of a conflict between pro-TPP Republicans and anti-TPP Democrats. Various opinions within the parties also complicate the situation. The complex mechanism of the package legislation of TPA and TAA also made vote counting difficult.
The leadership of the Republican Party, which is supported by the business community and farm and livestock industries, aligns itself with the Obama administration on the TPP. The party controls majorities in the two chambers, but several dozen members in the House are against TPA to prevent Obama from gaining more authority. It does not have the power to pass the bill singlehandedly.
Meanwhile, many in the Democratic Party oppose the TPP, as they fear the loss of jobs and weakening of the domestic industry. To deal with them, the government and the Republican leadership came up with the idea of bundling TPA and TAA to gain the understanding of the Democrats.
But the House failed to pass the bundled legislation on June 12. This was because Democrats voted against the TAA portion to object to the “bargaining tactics” [between the government and the Republicans.] This forced [the administration and the Republicans] to switch to the option of putting the TPA bill to a vote alone. (Abridged)