VPR Header
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
VPR News
Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Despite Welch's Vote, Trans-Pacific Trade Approved By Slim Margin In U.S. House

welch-3-vpr-evancie-20141104.jpg
Angela Evancie
/
VPR/file
Congressman Peter Welch, shown here in Burlington last Nov., voted against the overall Trans-Pacific Trade Deal, in part, because provisions of the bill were kept secret.

The future of the proposed Trans-Pacific trade deal in Congress was in doubt on Friday.

The U.S. House gave its approval to the legislation by a slim margin but it rejected a companion bill that gives special aid to workers who are displaced by future trade deals.

The day started when President Obama took the unusual step of coming to Capitol Hill to urge the House Democratic caucus to support his trade bills. One proposal would grant fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP as it is known, and the other would offer federal aid to people displaced by the trade agreement.

Congressman Peter Welch said the President made an impassioned plea to a group of skeptical Democrats. "There's definitely a split between the President and the Democratic caucus, particularly as the trade agreement has gotten worse and prohibited any discussion of issues like climate change or immigration reform,” says Welch.

The House first took up legislation that provides federal aid to American workers who are displaced by the trade agreement. It's a plan that the Democrats have strongly supported in the past. Welch says he voted against it because of its funding source. "I'm strong supporter of trade assistance but the ‘pay for’ in this specific version that we voted on was a $750 million cut in Medicare,” he says.

This bill was defeated when a coalition of Democrats, including Welch, joined together with a majority of Republicans who have never supported this type of worker assistance.

"I'm strong supporter of trade assistance but the 'pay for' in this specific version that we voted on was a $750 million cut in Medicare." - Congressman Peter Welch

The House then passed the bill, giving the president fast track authority for the Trans Pacific trade deal. This means that Congress would not have the ability to amend any parts of the agreement. The vote was 219 to 211.

But the future of the trade deal is now in limbo. That's because the Senate passed both the fast track agreement and the worker displacement program.

Welch voted against the overall trade deal, in part, because provisions of the bill were kept secret and could be viewed by members of Congress only if they visited a special room in the basement of the Capitol Building.

"How really can any of us justify approving something that we can't see, or if we see it, we have to sign a secrecy oath and we can't tell the people we represent what's in it."

"This is something that has a big impact on American families, American corporations,” says Welch. “How really can any of us justify approving something that we can't see, or if we see it, we have to sign a secrecy oath and we can't tell the people we represent what's in it.”

House Speaker John Boehner says he'll ask House members to reconsider their opposition to the worker assistance program next week as he tries to bring the House in line with the Senate.

Related Content