The Senate has taken a first step this week towards Trade Adjustment Assistance, which has been the major reason cited that the President has not sent the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to Congress. Senators agreed to limit debate on the Generalized System of Preferences bill, which is expected to serve as a vehicle for TAA. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says the intent is to attach TAA to the measure as an amendment.
"Movement on Trade Adjustment Assistance should compel the President to send the three free trade agreements to Congress," Grassley said. "The President keeps giving lip service to job creation, and quite frankly there is no better way to create jobs than to allow these trade agreements to be implemented because we are going to be exporting more and it's going to be in the billions of dollars or more to be exported."
U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has said every billion dollars in ag sales creates more than 8,000 jobs.
While Grassley isn't clear on how he'll vote on the TAA amendment, he makes it very clear he does not want to see the free trade agreements delayed further.
"I'm committed to not having it filibustered, and not holding it up," Grassley said. "That would kill the possibility of getting Colombia, Panama, and South Korea."
According to Grassley - the President is expected to submit the FTAs to Congress after the vote. That would set the House up for votes on the Senate-passed bill that includes TAA as well as the three trade deals. The Senate would then vote on the trade agreements as well.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association Manager of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus says this procedural vote was a critical step toward ending the long delay on ratification of FTAs. Now the timing of the vote depends on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"Sen. Reid holds the cards regarding how much time will be spent on the GSP bill. He has the ability to tie this up as long as he wants but there's also a chance we could see the bill move quickly. Much of that will hinge on how many amendments he allows," said Bacus. "There is enormous pressure on Sen. Reid to keep this under control."