House Republicans have a new plan to move trade forward — one that will require cooperation from a fragile Capitol Hill coalition and a tough vote for their own members.
Within the week, GOP leaders plan to advance a "clean" Trade Promotion Authority bill, decoupled from a partner measure that derailed its passage last Friday. That second piece, Trade Adjustment Assistance, will then be added to a trade-preferences bill in the Senate — a key element to bringing aboard Democrats who have said they will oppose TPA without it. But that plan also could be tough for Republicans, many of whom backed the preferences bill but oppose TAA.
The plan will require the trust of several elements on Capitol Hill, a place where trust has been in short supply. Senate Democrats who had conditioned their TPA votes as a package deal with TAA must now believe GOP leaders when they say they will bring the aid bill back as soon as fast-track passes. Likewise, President Obama, who supports TAA but dearly wants TPA, would have to risk the former to get the latter. And pro-trade House Democrats risk further angering the progressive groups and labor unions that have gone all-out to stop TPA.
By separating the bills, Republicans remove Democrats' best chance to block TPA. (Most Republicans oppose TAA, meaning it needed Democratic votes to pass.) But they also risk losing their few allies on the other side of the aisle, many of whom are skeptical that TAA can get through a Republican Congress once Obama signs TPA.