Boehner Says FTAs ‘Top Priority’ for House; Votes Expected Next Week

With the news today that President Barack Obama has submitted three long-stalled free trade agreements to Congress, House Republicans announced this afternoon that they will quickly bring the accords to the floor for a vote, setting the stage for their approval as soon as next week.

House Speaker John Boehner said the agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea will become a “top priority for the House,” and he revealed his intent to schedule votes on them “consecutively and in tandem” with the bipartisan Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, known as TAA.

“While the delay was unacceptably long and likely cost jobs, I am pleased the Obama Administration has finally done its part and sent these important trade pacts to Congress,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Expanding markets for American small businesses and manufacturers is a critical component of the Republican Plan for America’s Job Creators. These three trade agreements will support American jobs and help create opportunities to expand for American businesses. I look forward to seeing them passed, as well as beginning the important task of working with the administration to further expand America’s trade agenda.”

The pacts have collected dust as the White House has sought assurance from Congress that the FTAs would be voted on in concert with the TAA aid for workers. The Colombia FTA was signed in November 2006, while the Panama FTA and the Korea FTA were signed in January 2007 and June 2007, respectively. A deal on the TAA was negotiated by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp R-Mich.

With the House Rules Committee scheduled to meet this evening to advance the TAA/GSP legislation, Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., called the agreements “welcome news to those of us who have been seeking their approval in both good and bad economic times.”

“After nearly four years of languishing, it is past time we enact these FTAs so that American goods and services have access to these markets and jobs can be created across the U.S. We cannot afford to wait any longer,” Dreier said. “It’s my hope that all of these measures enjoy bipartisan support and are approved without delay.”

After tonight’s meeting on TAA, the rules committee still needs to meet once again to advance the three Free Trade Agreements, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced that the House is likely to vote on the agreements next week.

“We welcome the president’s action to help get our economy back on track, get people back to work and put our country on even footing with our foreign competitors,” Cantor said. “Moving forward on these agreements will provide manufacturers with the help they need to increase exports and increase production. The more manufacturers produce, the more workers they need and that means job creation.”

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