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Where Are Those Urgent Trade Deals?

Since July, Obama has been berating Congress to pass a group of free trade deals, insisting this is one piece of job-promoting legislation that can be initiated “right now.”

But despite Obama’s supposed urgency, the White House still hasn’t sent the agreements to the Hill for a vote. Now that Congress is back in session, Sen. Mitch McConnell wonders why Obama’s continuing to hold up the deals:

What’s the real holdup? For three years, the administration has delayed finalizing these deals because unions have been extracting concessions in exchange for their support. Early on, they demanded further concessions and political reforms from our trading partners, all of which have been satisfied. Now, they’re demanding taxpayer funds for worker training programs that many believe are not only duplicative and costly but may not even be effective. Still, I and others have told the president we are prepared to allow this program to move ahead for a vote as a sign of good faith and to move the trade deals forward.

The deals will make it to Congress eventually, but the delay suggests Obama is more consumed with politics than addressing the economic situation. He’s spent the month of August lecturing lawmakers to pass the agreements – likely because it fits in well with his “do-nothing Congress” campaign strategy – but they can’t be implemented until Obama actually submits them.

Even though Republicans have agreed to concessions to placate unions, labor groups still oppose the deals. If McConnell is right, and the hold up is really about the president trying to negotiate an even better deal for the labor unions, then that tells you exactly where his mind is. If Obama ends up pushing for further pro-union concessions, it will only add to the perception he’s more interested in appeasing his base than on passing the same agreements he says will create jobs.


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