By two critical votes in the House and Senate, Congress has advanced the cause of more robust trade. That’s good for America and good for Louisiana.
The issue was divisive among Democrats in both chambers. President Barack Obama sought what is called trade promotion authority, to negotiate a treaty with Asian and European partners that would eventually go to an up-or-down vote in the Congress.
That authority has been granted to every president for years, but trade has become a dirty word among union-backed Democrats. We believe they’ve got that wrong and the president, as well as Republican leaders in the House and Senate, did the right thing in advancing the TPA measure.
Free and fair trade is vital to Louisiana, home to five of the nation’s top ports and the outlet to immense amounts of American products via the Mississippi River and rail networks. Ours is a trade-oriented state, with thousands of jobs related to the export of not only farm products and petrochemicals but other manufactured goods as well.
The nation runs a trade surplus with the 20 countries with which we now have trade agreements; our trade deficit overall could be reduced as trade expands in the Pacific region with the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
If this TPA vote sounds like a no-brainer, it wasn’t for many Democrats across the country. The Senate barely mustered the 60 votes needed to curtail debate and move to a vote on the TPA resolution. That was an essential procedural step, without a vote to spare.
We’re happy to report that Louisiana Sens. David Vitter, of Metairie, and Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, voted with the majority. They are among the president’s most avid critics, but their making common cause with Obama on trade was a decision benefiting both Louisiana and the nation. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, is the GOP whip who put together the political coalition for free trade in the House.
There were other votes in the Senate and House, given the complicated series of measures that follow from the main resolution on TPA authority. Among them is a bill to reauthorize a program, often criticized by Republican budget-cutters, to provide special benefits to workers in industries affected by trade.
Some Louisiana workers have in the past benefited from the Trade Adjustment Act benefits, but the main reason to support it is that it keeps pro-trade Democrats on the reservation. This is a bit of a political trade, but it is one that is worth making. The president signed the legislation Monday.
We encourage Louisiana members of both the House and Senate to continue to support expanding trade in Asia, Europe and Africa. Louisiana and the nation emerge winners from trade.