A top Democratic senator warned on Wednesday that U.S. trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea will not pass unless Republicans agree to a robust retraining program for displaced workers.
“They must move together as a package … Otherwise nothing happens. It’s all or nothing,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said at a hearing on the Panama pact.
Earlier this week, 41 Democrats sent a letter to President Barack Obama backing his decision not send the trade pacts to Congress until there is a deal to reauthorize an expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
A number of Republicans have objected to renewing TAA at levels approved in the 2009 economic stimulus bill.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said the Panama and the other trade agreements negotiated during the administration of former President George W. Bush deserve to be considered on their own merits.
“The administration continues to delay, requiring the Congress to agree to an unrelated spending program before they will send the Panama agreement to us for a vote,” Hatch said.