Update: GOP Leadership pulled the bill from the schedule!
Can someone please tell me which party is in control of the House of Representatives? Because I cannot tell from looking at tomorrow’s floor schedule.
House Republicans have placed on the “suspension” calendar (typically reserved for noncontroversial matters) a bill to extend expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits until the end of June. The TAA program gives generous benefits to individuals who lose their job as a result of a free trade, even though 99 weeks of unemployment is already available for all laid-off workers. The Obama “stimulus” bill dramatically expanded the program in scope and duration so that now TAA benefits costs taxpayers roughly $2.4 billion each year.
Say what you will about unemployment benefits (and I’m not a big fan of them), but at least they’re equitable. If you lose your job, you are eligible for benefits. Not so with TAA benefits, which discriminate in favor of those who have lost their job as a result of trade.
TAA benefits are typically the political sweetener that accompany pending free trade agreements, such as the Columbian Free Trade Agreement, in order to attract votes from free trade skeptics. Unfortunately, House Republicans are now attaching it to a worthwhile but run-of-the-mill extension of the Andean Trade Preference Act, even though a Democrat Congress was able to pass a short term extension of this very trade preference, as recently as December 14, 2009, without attaching TAA benefits as a sweetener. What gives?
Congress should vote this extension of stimulus-level TAA benefits down tomorrow, and let the program expire…
…And don’t let the relatively short four month extension of the program fool you into thinking Congress will let it expire in July. Policy makers cement these compromises into the status quo, where they can be simply rolled over into future extensions. Conservatives would be wise to upset this compromise while they can.