Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday accused President Obama of allowing union demands to hold up long-anticipated free-trade deals with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. In a Washington Post op-ed, the Kentucky Republican urged Obama to send the trade deals to Congress "immediately,” saying that they would meet with easy approval and that in this economy, further delay is "indefensible."
“I and others have told the president we are prepared to allow this program to move ahead for a vote as a sign of good faith and to move the trade deals forward,” McConnell wrote. He said that all three deals "would garner wide bipartisan support" and that Congress is willing to enact them.
McConnell noted that the White House has blamed congressional Republicans for holding up the trade deals, but he called that notion “absurd, because Congress can’t ratify trade deals until the president submits them for congressional approval.”
“For nearly three years, Republicans and a number of Democrats have been calling on the president to approve these deals” to create jobs, boost the economy, and strengthen ties “with three important allies,” McConnell said.
McConnell told National Journal in June that the deadlock over the trade deals was, in fact, a deadlock with two elements: an AFL-CIO demand for an expanded trade-adjustment deal; a federal subsidy program for laid-off workers that Republicans oppose; and McConnell's own preference that the trade deals be tied to a revival of trade-promotion authority, which allows the president to fast-track free-trade agreements through Congress.
“We’d be happy to pass the three trade agreements, period,” McConnell told National Journalin June. “But if the president and the Democrats want to talk about TAA, then that will be linked to TPA, which is to [Obama's] advantage."