Last week's passage of legislation granting Trade Promotion Authority to the Obama administration cleared a major hurdle to the U.S. joining the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Despite the setback for TPA opponents — and amid talks of reconciliation between the bill’s supporters and critics — they plan to continue their fight in anticipation of the Pacific trade pact reaching Congress.
"It’s not over," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who helped spearhead widespread opposition to TPA among her House Democratic colleagues.
House Democrats earlier this month shot down another trade bill that temporarily halted TPA, but the bill eventually passed with support from Republicans in the House and Senate.
TPA stipulates that Congress may not amend agreed-upon trade deals when they come before lawmakers for approval, a step considered crucial to ongoing negotiations over trade pacts in Asia and Europe.
Proponents, including many business groups, believe the TPP would open up additional export markets for U.S. companies. Critics blame prior trade deals for lower wages and job losses.
The debate led to a high-profile split among House Democrats, with a few TPP supporters aligning with the White House and most siding with organized labor against the bill.
Unions put heavy pressure on Democrats as the House prepared to debate the president's trade agenda, even running TV ads against a northern California trade supporter. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, accused labor of "going a little overboard" earlier this month.
Both sides appeared eager to bury the hatchet in the aftermath of the recent TPA votes, but labor groups said that they would continue to oppose the Pacific trade agreement — and vowed that they would not forget how their traditional Democratic allies voted on trade authority.
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, told The Wall Street Journal that their votes “will carry significant weight as we’re evaluating” support in upcoming elections.
The terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to go before Congress later this year, with a vote potentially looming in 2016.