Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch: Common Sense Prevails as Democrats Agree to Take up Trade Debate
In a speech, Utah Senator Says, “Today, I am very glad to see that my colleagues have recognized our desire to move all of these important bills and that they have agreed with us on a workable path forward.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) welcomed an agreement that paves the way for further debate on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Under the agreement, the Senate will vote tomorrow on the Finance-passed customs bill and the trade preferences bill, paving the way for another cloture vote on the motion to proceed to a vehicle to move TPA.
“This is what Republicans had been working toward all along. While we could not – and still cannot – guarantee that all four bills will become law, we certainly want to see the custom and preferences bills pass the Senate… It’s high time that we let this debate move forward,” Hatch said.
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, you’ve all now heard the good news with regard to our ongoing efforts to advance U.S. trade policy. After a lot of discussion and back and forth, we’ve come to an agreement on a path forward. I’m very happy to say that, finally, and at long last, common sense has prevailed.
As you know, on April 22nd, the Senate Finance Committee reported four separate trade bills: A bill to renew Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, another to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, a trade preferences bill, and a customs and enforcement bill.
Throughout the recent discussion on trade policy, the TPA bill has gotten most of the attention. That makes sense. After all, it is President Obama’s top legislative priority and, if we can get it passed, its impact will be immediately felt.
The TAA bill, though I’m not ecstatic to admit it, is part of the overall TPA effort. We’ve known from the outset that, in order to ensure passage of TPA, we’d need to make sure TAA moved along with it. That’s a concession we were always willing to make, Mr. President, though most of us on the Republican side aren’t all that crazy about TAA.
The path for the other two bills – the preferences bill and the customs bill – was always a bit more uncertain. But, once again, we knew that from the beginning.
I’m pleased to say that we’ve reached an agreement that will allow us to consider, and hopefully pass, all four of the Finance Committee trade bills in relatively short order. Under the agreement, the Senate will vote tomorrow on both our customs bill as well as our trade preferences bill.
This will pave the way for another cloture vote on the motion to proceed to a vehicle to move TPA and TAA. And, though I am, of course, wary of counting my proverbial chickens before they’ve hatched – no pun intended – I expect that we’ll get a strong bipartisan vote in favor of finally beginning the debate on these important bills.
This is, in my opinion, the best of all possible outcomes, Mr. President.
This is what Republicans had been working toward all along.
While we could not – and still cannot – guarantee that all four bills will become law, we certainly want to see the custom and preferences bills pass the Senate.
I’m a co-author of both of those bills. They are high priorities for me. It was never my intention to let them wither on the legislative calendar. I was always going to do everything in my power to help move them forward.
That’s why at the Finance Committee markup, I committed to working with my colleagues to try to get all four of these bills across the finish line. That’s the agreement that was made and, as of right now, it appears that we’ll be able to make good on that commitment, on a much shorter timeline than I think any of us expected.
Yesterday was a difficult day, Mr. President. I think it was pretty obvious to any observer that I was more than a little frustrated.
Today, I am very glad to see that my colleagues have recognized our desire to move all of these important bills and that they have agreed with us on a workable path forward.
But, now is not the time to celebrate, Mr. President. While this agreement solves a temporary procedural issue, now is when the real work begins.
As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been years, decades even, since we had a real debate over U.S. trade policy here on the Senate floor. And, I’m quite certain that we’ve got a spirited debate ahead of us. I’m looking forward to fair and open discussion of all of these important issues.
It’s high time that we let this debate move forward. Indeed, it’s what the American people deserve.
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