Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the floor late Thursday afternoon to reiterate his commitment to passing the three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea on reports that the White House has made a decision not to send the deals to Congress before the August recess. Admitting that the calendar is tight, with a lot of urgent business to take care of, McConnell said the administration should submit the agreements as a show of good faith with our trading allies in the three countries. He said Congress could then work to pass them when they return from the recess.
Speaking at the Coalition of Service Industries Global Services Summit in Washington D.C. this week, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the Obama administration is working closely with congressional leaders to pass the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama as it is vital that the U.S. brings home the job-creating benefits of these pacts as soon as possible.
Kirk added that he has no doubt that the trade deals will be approved and the administration will do everything to have the FTAs ratified quickly.
According to McConnell, the Administration has received everything it has publicly asked for on Trade Adjustment Assistance and got an agreement on the process. He said he is committed to working with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to ensure a fair floor process so there is an opportunity to amend a stand-alone TAA bill separate from the three agreements. He also stated that all indications are that the votes are there to pass the TAA bill.
Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he has rounded up enough Senate Republican votes to pass a renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program that helps workers laid off as a result of trade agreements.
"Twelve Republican United States Senators have signed a letter, as well as made a commitment, that they will support trade adjustment assistance," r. Portman told a gathering of trade officials. "There is a pathway forward."
The two senators will describe their plan further at a press conference Friday.