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Senate and House Pass Trade Package, President Obama Up Next

After voting to advance fast-track legislation Wednesday and moving it to the president to sign, the Senate also passed the trade preferences bill and a workers’ aid program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in a voice vote without objection. And Thursday, in a 286-138 vote, the House moved the bill forward too.

Now both the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill and TAA await President Obama’s signature to be turned into law.

The trade preferences package, called the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, includes a 10-year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an update to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program and an extension of the Haiti HOPE/HELP deal.

Some had said President Obama wouldn’t sign the fast-track, or TPA, bill without TAA/trade preferences approval, and Democrats have prioritized the measure which they see as vital to enforcing trade rules.

TAA would provide support to workers who lose their jobs because of free trade agreements, but the contentious bill nearly brought the president’s trade agenda to a hault when House Democrats voted it down two weeks ago. The measure was part of the previous TPA package, but leaders uncoupled the two to get fast-track approved. Democrats voted against TAA to stall fast-track, but the splitting of the measures proved successful in getting the bill passed.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who had been working tirelessly to derail TAA, said in a statement before the measure’s passage Wednesday, “I’m disappointed that the TAA bill isn’t nearly as robust as it should be in light of a trade agreement that encompasses 40 percent of the global economy,” adding, “While we may not all vote in the same manner on TAA, I will support its passage because it can open the door to a full debate on TPP.”