McConnell Urges Senate to Begin Debate on Bipartisan Trade Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor urging Senators to start debate on a 21st Century American trade agenda:
“The Senate will have the opportunity this afternoon to open the legislative process for a broad, 21st Century American trade agenda.
“Let me remind Senators that the vote we’re taking today is not a vote to approve or disprove of Trade Promotion Authority. In fact, the bill we’d be voting to proceed to is simply a placeholder that will allow us to open the broad debate on trade our country needs.
“Voting yes to open debate on a 21st Century American trade agenda offers every member of this body the chance to stand up for American workers, American farmers, American entrepreneurs, and American manufacturers.
“It’s a chance to stand with Americans for economic growth, opportunity, and good jobs.
“Selling products stamped ‘Made in America’ to the many customers who live beyond our borders is key.
“That’s true across our country.
“It’s true in my home state of Kentucky.
“We know that Kentucky already boasts more than half a million jobs related to trade.
“We know that nearly a quarter of Kentucky’s manufacturing workers depend on exports for their jobs.
“And we know that manufacturing jobs tied to exports pay about 18% more than non-export related jobs.
“So there’s every reason to knock down more unfair international trade barriers and bring more benefits back to Americans, right here at home.
“According to one estimate, Kentucky alone could see thousands more jobs and millions more in economic investment if we enact smart agreements with countries in Europe and the Pacific.
“We also know how important these types of agreements are to our national security. Especially in the Pacific region. Just last week, seven former defense secretaries from both political parties wrote to express their ‘strongest possible support’ on the issue.
“‘The stakes are clear,’ they wrote. ‘There are tremendous strategic benefits… [and] America’s prestige, influence, and leadership are on the line.’
“If we care about preserving and extending American leadership in the 21st Century, then we cannot cede the most dynamic region in the world to China.
“It’s true from a national security perspective. And it’s true from an economic perspective.
“But first, we need fair and enforceable trade legislation that expands congressional oversight over the Administration and sets clear rules and procedures for our trade negotiators.
“We have all those things in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act – a bill that passed out of the Finance Committee, 20 to 6, with strong support from both parties.
“We should start the process of building on that bipartisan momentum now.
“I know the opportunity to consider complex legislation via regular order became too uncommon in recent years. That’s changing now. The Senate may still be a little rusty though.
“So I want to be clear about what today’s vote is.
“This is a vote to begin a process.
“This is a vote to begin a debate on a broad trade agenda.
“Yes, TPA will be a part of that debate. But Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, will be too.
“Now there are many members on my side of the aisle who have real reservations about TAA. I do as well. But I expect that at the end of this process – after the Senate works its will – that TAA will be a part of the package the Senate sends to the House.
“The top Democrat on the Finance Committee made it clear at the markup of these trade bills that TAA needed to run alongside TPA. I know that the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Hatch, has also been working toward that end.
“And the Finance Committee didn’t just mark up TPA and TAA. It also marked up the African Growth and Opportunity Act and passed the Generalized System of Preferences bill by voice vote.
“It reported a Customs and Enforcement bill by voice vote too.
“So while TPA is clearly the centerpiece of the trade agenda before us, there is also bipartisan support for other bills reported by the Finance Committee.
“Now I know we’ve heard some concern that those bills might get left behind. I don’t think that was anyone’s intent. I expect to have a robust amendment process that will allow trade-related amendments to be offered and considered, including on the subject matters that the committee dealt with. The underlying substitute will be a compromise between the two parties, marrying TAA and TPA.
“But let me repeat: The measure before us will be open for amendment and I expect that other trade policies considered by the committee, and possibly more, will be debated on the floor. I also expect that Chairman Hatch and Senator Wyden will be working hard to get as much done as they can on all of these proposals.
“I know that Chairman Hatch wants to find a path forward on all of these bills.
“I know that Senator Wyden and Chairman Ryan spent a lot of time working through TAA, and — despite the objections of many on our side — it is likely to be included in any trade bill that passes the Senate.
“I'm confident that an enduring agreement can be found if the Senate is allowed to work its will and debate openly.
“All we are voting on today is whether to have that debate.
“If there are Senators with concerns about particular details of the trade agenda before us, that’s all the more reason to vote to debate it. Let’s have those conversations in an open and transparent way. Let’s give the American people a full-throated debate on an important issue.
“But we can't debate any of the provisions Senators want to consider if they vote to filibuster even getting on this bill. So I'm calling on colleagues to prove they're serious about wanting to pass legislation, rather than simply looking for new and creative ways to defeat legislation. Voting to proceed is the way to prove it.
“All the good committee work I mentioned demonstrates a real hunger to process bipartisan trade legislation.
“So let’s vote to build on that today.
“Let’s vote to open debate on a 21st Century American trade agenda. Let’s not slam the door on even the opportunity of having that debate.”
Related Issues: Free Trade, Economy, Jobs, Trade Promotion Authority, Middle Class