The House of Representatives could vote on long-delayed free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama in July, a Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday.
U.S. Representative Kevin Brady also said the House Ways and Means Committee would hold an informal work session next week on the three trade deals in anticipation of President Barack Obama sending formal implementing legislation.
“The administration should send up the bills right after that non-markup and we would move right to the floor in July after our formal markup,” Brady said.
A ‘non-markup’ is an informal legislative procedure that allows Ways and Means members to consider a draft implementing bill for the trade deals and vote on possible amendments.
Any changes would go to the White House as a recommendation. The Obama administration would then decide whether to include them in the final bill it sends to Congress.
The procedure gives lawmakers some input in drafting the legislation, which under rules for trade agreements cannot be amended once it is formally submitted by the White House for congressional approval.
The Senate Finance Committee has to go through the same procedure before the White House sends the final bill. But the Senate and the House must pass the trade deals for them to become law.
Brady conceded there was still no deal on the administration’s demand that renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance move along with the trade deals.
But he said he was optimistic House Speaker John Boehner and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp would be able to reach an agreement with the White House on that issue.
Brady said it would help if Democrats dropped their demand that Trade Adjustment Assistance be renewed at the expanded 2009 level. The 5-decade-old TAA program provides retraining and healthcare benefits for workers who have lost their jobs because of import competition or relocation.
“We will not reach a bipartisan deal as long as Democrats insist on essentially renewing the 2009 version of the trade adjustment assistance program,” Brady said.
“Many Republicans see that program as wasteful, costly and ineffective and they’re demanding spending cuts necessary to put America’s financial house in order,” he said.