ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:
Senate Republicans continued to press the White House today to send to Congress the trade deals for South Korea, Columbia and Panama, criticizing President Obama’s trade policy as “schizophrenic.”
“This schizophrenic trade policy is doing nothing but hurting American workers and undermining our recovery,” U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor today. “Under no circumstance should these trade agreements be held up.”
The Obama administration has indicated that they will not submit legislation on these trade agreements until a deal is reached on the TAA – the Trade Adjustment Assistance, a now-retired jobs program for laid-off workers.
“At a time when 14 million Americans are looking for work, they actually want to hold off on these known job-creating agreements in exchange for a green light to spend more money," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, “It's astonishing.”
Republicans are calling for these two issues –the trade deals and the TAA — to be dealt with “separately and independently,” in order to move ahead with the long-stalled trade deals.
Republicans warned that the time is of the essence, suggesting that as the 2012 campaign season picks up the desire and ability to tackle these trade agreements will decrease even more.
"I'm convinced that the window for the administration to submit these agreements will soon pass," Hatch said, "Given the upcoming election season, I'm afraid that if these agreements aren't submitted this summer, they never will be."
Republicans have also vowed to hold up any confirmation for the president’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, John Bryson, until the president submits the trade agreements.
“Until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the letter submitted in March wrote to the Senate Majority Leader, signed by 44 Republicans.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that Republicans are more focused on next year’s election – and not actually creating jobs in the United States.
“My friends on the other side of the aisle are more interested in jobs in Colombia, Korea and Panama than they are here in the United States. That's obvious,” Reid said.
- Sunlen Miller