Romney Bucks Congressional Republicans, Backs Assistance For Workers Who Lost Jobs To Trade

ThinkProgress filed this report from a campaign event in Allentown, Pennsylvania

Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate have come out in opposition to three pending trade deals if President Obama includes reauthorization of a program meant to aid workers who lose jobs due to outsourcing caused by international trade. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and other Senate Finance Committee Republicans plan to oppose the deals if the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program is included.

Despite widespread Republican opposition to the program, however, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) endorsed the idea of assisting workers who lose their jobs due to free trade during a presidential campaign stop in Allentown, Pennsylvania yesterday, even touting a worker assistance program that exists in Massachusetts:

KEYES: The Senate is marking up three trade agreements right now, but Republicans are opposing assistance for workers whose jobs are shipped overseas. Is that assistance something you would support?

ROMNEY: I’m not familiar with the specific bill. I can tell you this —

KEYES: It’s the three trade agreements with South Korea —

ROMNEY: …I can tell you my experience in dealing with the issue, the very serious issue of people whose careers have been lost because industries are lost, is that in some respects the best way to help those folks is to, if you will, attach a bit of a bonus or a bounty to those who are unemployed for some period of time and let that money go to someone who actually hires them and puts them in a training program in their enterprise. I like people getting trained for actual jobs. And we did that in my state, we made it a $2,000 bonus that got attached to anyone who was unemployed for a year or more. That strikes me as an appropriate way to help get people back on their feet. I like helping individuals who’ve been out of work for a long time, whose industries have been decimated, and helping those folks get the skills they need to get better jobs is something that makes a lot of sense.

Watch it:

Though Romney didn’t endorse the TAA program specifically, his support for worker assistance of any kind runs counter to congressional Republicans, who are so opposed to the idea of providing aid to workers that they skipped the markup of the trade agreements yesterday afternoon.

But as with anything Romney supports today, it’s hard to know if he will continue supporting it tomorrow. Though he touts Massachusetts’ Worker Training Development Fund now, he attempted to veto $6.3 million out of its budget in 2006.