After much back-and-forth on sequencing and strategy [subscription required], and many fine words from both sides about how the long-pending trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea are a bipartisan priority (President Obama’s failure to send the agreements for a vote notwithstanding), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) finally laid all his cards cleanly on the table yesterday.
A deal reached in August seemed to imply that the House would merely have to put Trade Adjustment Assistance to a vote before passage of the trade agreements, but yesterday Senator Reid said that the Senate would not vote on the trade agreements unless and until the House PASSES (not merely “considers”, as the Republican House leadership was always careful to specify) an extenstion of Trade Adjustment Assistance. (By the way, just to clarify, the stimulus-enhanced version of TAA is the main issue here. The basic TAA program has been running without authorization since the start of the year, when OMB ruled that it could continue unauthorized, so long as it was funded. So while the entire program “needs” reauthorization, the 2009 version is the most urgent priority for TAA advocates and their political supporters.)
So there you have it, folks, with all the niceties stripped away: If TAA doesn’t pass, then Harry Reid will ensure the trade agreements won’t even see the Senate floor. Pay the bribe, or pay the price.