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TAA Legislation Perched to Take Center Stage

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The TAA legislation is supported by a number of Republicans, such as Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, whose home state of Michigan has been hit hard as auto manufacturers head to other countries to set up shop in cheaper climes.

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Eager to shift their focus to the economy, House Republicans on Wednesday will pass an obscure trade bill that is set to become the linchpin of the GOP's larger jobs message.

The bill, which is slated for expedited consideration, would reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences, a set of key but little-known provisions governing trade with developing nations through July 2013.

According to House and Senate aides on both sides of the aisle, the bill will be used as a vehicle for the Senate to pass the larger Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, legislation that authorizes hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on job training and other programs for U.S. workers displaced by free-trade agreements.

According to these aides, the carrot-and-stick approach of adding TAA to the noncontroversial GSP measure could smooth the path for approval of the worker assistance program, which has been mired for months in a partisan brawl.

Such movement on the TAA measure would be significant because it would pave the way for passage of three major trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama that the GOP has made a pillar of its jobs messaging.

Senate Republicans, led by Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch (Utah), will press their case Wednesday at a news conference for the White House for the deals. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) penned an op-ed Tuesday in the Washington Post arguing that the deals would boost jobs in the United States.

Democrats have previously wanted TAA to be linked to the deals, but Republicans have resisted that maneuver.

The resulting delay has led to finger-pointing over who is to blame for stalling the deals' economic benefits, as well as aid to workers.

"The goal is the House will pass GSP, and I think the expectation is the Senate will take up that bill. The time frame is not clear, but hopefully by the end of the month," a House Democratic aide said.

A Senate GOP aide agreed, explaining that the GSP bill is at the center of an agreement between Republicans and the White House to begin moving the three trade deals and that it is unlikely anyone will want to "stand in front of that 18-wheeler."

Still, another House Democratic aide cautioned: "That's not something that's set in stone, but that's something that a lot of people have been talking about."

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