For Democrats in Washington, the writing was on the wall.
Let me be clear: I oppose "fast-track" legislation! Congress is empowered by the U.S. Constitution to review trade deals. I do not support ceding our authority to anyone. The recent actions to pass this measure by any means necessary diluted our authority.
Members of the House and Senate voted to pass the TPA, and the President made clear his intentions to sign the bill post haste. President Obama said he would not sign TPA (fast track) without accompanying legislation to support America's workers. That no longer appeared to be the case.
We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Our hands tied. We had to hold the President and Republicans accountable to America's displaced workers. We had to protect those who will surely lose their jobs as a result of this trade package.
This trade deal, the largest in history, is being negotiated with countries that continue to commit human rights and environmental violations across the globe. These countries pay their workers pennies on the dollar. Their workers cannot even afford the products they make or those that we would export to them.
We will be forced to do business with nations that do not respect workers. The scale of trade will remain unbalanced. It is inevitable we will find ourselves on the short end of the stick.
The only viable option we had left to ensure our workers had a chance was to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The TAA provides support for American workers who have lost jobs due to trade. TAA funds, primarily, provide training, resources, and income support. Eligible workers may also receive case management, wrap-around services, and tax credits that can be used to offset new health care costs.
Was the TAA a perfect solution? No. The amount allotted for training was meager at best, and it does not cover public sector workers. But with the trade deal done, this was our only option. It would be wrong to let TPA go forward without upholding the rights of America's workers.
U.S. trade policy is not just about the relationship between our nation and other countries. It is part of a larger conversation about living wage, consumer protection, job security, and a better quality of life for all Americans.
While I am disappointed in the passage of TPA and the pending development of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I refuse to turn my back on the people who make America run!
The writing was on the wall. We had to protect America's workers. We had to pass the TAA.
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