The Senate passed legislation today to provide job training and other assistance to workers displaced by trade, setting the stage for passage of three free-trade agreements after next week’s recess.
The bill, which the Senate passed 70-27, now goes to the House. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his chamber would take up the measure after President Barack Obama submits the Colombia, South Korea and Panama trade deals.
“We await the President’s submission of the three trade agreements sitting on his desk so the House can consider them in tandem with the Senate-passed ... legislation,” Boehner said in a statement. “If the President submits these agreements promptly, I’m confident that all four bills can be signed into law by mid-October.”
It’s not clear whether the administration will go ahead with sending the agreements, however, without a guarantee that the trade assistance measure will reach Obama's desk.
The White House has demanded passage of the trade assistance legislation before it sends the agreements to Congress, and a coalition of Democrats and Republicans agreed to pass it.
The Senate fended off Republican attempts to narrow the scope of the measure, including an amendment from Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) that would have limited assistance to workers directly affected by a free-trade agreement. The Senate also blocked an attempt by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to force the sale of fighter jets to Taiwan over the objections of the Obama administration.
Democrats warned that if Republicans were successful in altering the bill, they risked upsetting the bipartisan balance needed to pass the trade agreements, which have long been a priority of the GOP and business groups.
Leaders from military and veterans service organizations joined Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a press conference to urge the Senate to replace a provision in the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for veterans. Wicker, Ayotee, and Graham earlier called for a bipartisan solution to replace the $6.3 billion in cuts to military retiree benefits.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.