Washington, Jun 13 (IANS): The US House of Representatives failed to approve the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation, which would have given aid to US workers who lose their jobs as a result of US trade deals with other countries, delivering a major blow to President Barack Obama's trade agenda.
The US House on Friday rejected the trade measure in 302-126 vote minutes after House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on the floor that she would vote against the TAA. "If TAA slows down the fast track, I'm prepared to vote against TAA," she said, Xinhua reported.
Under the rules for considering the trade package in the House, the TAA had been packaged with trade promotion authority (TPA), which would grant the president the fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended by Congress.
A vote against the TAA means the trade package, which passed the Senate last month, could not become law for now, though the House on Friday voted 219-211 in favor of the TPA.
Democrats have traditionally supported the TAA, but are generally skeptical about the TPA measure. Liberal Democrats and activists from labor unions have launched campaigns in recent weeks to block the TPA legislation, arguing that trade deals have hurt US workers and increased income inequality.
They also said that voting against the TAA is the only way to stop the fast-track of trade deals.
Earlier on Friday, Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby members of the House Democratic caucus to back his trade agenda. Asked about the vote, Obama said "I don't think you ever nail anything down around here. It's always moving."
Failing to advance the trade legislation would delay the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, a top priority of Obama's second-term economic policy.
Other TPP participants have signaled that they would like to put their best offers on the table and conclude the Asia-Pacific trade deal, which covers 40 percent of the global economy, only after the Obama administration has secured the TPA from Congress.