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House Passes Trade Promotion Authority, Rejects Trade Adjustment Assistance

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to grant President Barack Obama fast-track authority on trade but rejected a worker-aid program, leaving the bill in limbo.

Washington lawmakers voted 219-211 in favor of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, but 126-302 against Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program to help workers who lose their jobs due to free trade and a key component of TPA—which can’t move forward without all of its provisions passing.

Obama has made TPA a pivotal point of his final two years in office, saying it’s crucial to advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Asia-Pacific countries—representing 40 percent of world trade and 40 percent of global GDP—and a central part of his economic legacy.

Under TPA, the president can propose trade agreements that Congress can either reject or ratify but not amend or filibuster.

Its passage is also necessary to complete the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the European Union.

But Democrats have staunchly opposed TPA and despite a last-ditch lobbying effort by Obama to bring fence-sitting lawmakers onside, they ultimately voted 40-144 to kill TAA, a program their party created and has stood by for decades.

“Our people would rather have a job than trade assistance,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor, announcing she would vote against TAA. “Its defeat, sad to say, is the only way that we will be able to slow down the fast track.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called Friday’s defeat “another procedural snafu.” The House is expected to hold a new vote on TAA on Monday or Tuesday.