Last week, Republicans boycotted a Senate Finance Committee markup of three pending free trade agreements due to their opposition to an expanded Trade Assistance Adjustment program being included within the deals. TAA aids workers who are displaced by international trade, and Republicans allowed the expanded program to expire back in February.
Making it clear that GOP opposition to helping the workers who are inevitably hurt by expanded international trade isn’t confined to the Senate, House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee refused earlier this week to even include TAA in their version of the trade deals at all. And when House Democrats proposed an amendment to insert TAA into the agreement, the GOP voted it down:
In the House, Democrats offered an amendment to include TAA in the Korea bill, but the effort was defeated by Republicans. The panel then approved the pact with Democrats voting no.
Last year, 280,000 workers were aided by trade assistance, with nearly half of them receiving aid under the expanded program that the GOP allowed to expire. And Republicans realize that the program is helpful to workers, as several of them have supported their constituents’ petitions to obtain benefits.
Expanding trade is going to produce winners and losers, so it is imperative that any expansion of trade include help for workers who wind up on the short end of the stick. Even 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said recently that he supports aid for workers who lose their jobs due to trade.
But the GOP has obstinately opposed providing such assistance, with Republican leaders saying that they will actively oppose free trade deals that include aid for workers. As Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — a staunch advocate of TAA — put it, Republicans “continue to want to do free trade on the cheap.”