Republicans deliberating over Obama’s FTA ultimatum

The Republicans are deliberating over Obama’s FTA ultimatum regarding the TAA worker training extension, with a conservative lobby group labelling the TAA “wasteful and unnecessary,” as it continues to delay passage of the U.S.-Colombian FTA, reported Reuters Thursday.

“We oppose the TAA program … it’s just a giant government boondoggle,” said Barney Keller, spokesperson for the lobby group Club for Growth. A boondoggle is defined as an unnecessary or wasteful project.

The renewal of the TAA has been made a condition by President Barack Obama for sending the pending free trade pacts between the U.S. and Colombia, Panama, and South Korea to Congress for approval.

The 50-year-old TAA program, which helps retrain workers who lose their jobs, is expected to cost $1 billion a year. If Congress scraps the TAA, or makes it less effective, the Obama administration could further delay or even kill the pending FTAs.

The influential pro-tax cut group Club for Growth issued a “key vote alert” calling on Congress to reject the renewal of the TAA.

It said the “TAA is duplicative and overly generous because the unemployed already have access to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits thanks to the many extensions already passed by Congress.”

Following this statement, House Republicans withdrew the TAA bill from the floor of the House of Representatives.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the Senate Finance Committee who voiced his opposition to the TAA May 26, reiterated his position on the matter. He said, “Why should we put up $7.2 billion over 10 years in a country that’s currently broke?”

However, there is support for the TAA from major business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. They have asked lawmakers to work with the White House as part of a broader deal to pass the FTAs.

“TAA is as vitally important today as it has been over the years,” said the groups in a letter to congressional leaders.

Congress created the TAA in 1962, aimed at helping factory workers who lost their jobs as a result of foreign competition. It has since been extended to cover those in the service industry, as well as government workers. The TAA was then expanded again to protect workers whose jobs moved to countries like China and India.

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