The U.S. House voted Tuesday to give itself more time to try to salvage President Barack Obama’s faltering trade agenda.
House members will now have until July 30 to reconsider a vote on trade-adjustment assistance that failed last Friday. House leaders originally planned to bring up the issue early this week.
The House voted 236 to 189 for the extension, including it in a rule for debate on the 2016 intelligence authorization bill.
The measure is linked to Obama’s bid to win trade-promotion authority to help him pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact that would rank as the largest in history.
While trade backers said the postponement would give them more time to regroup, opponents said it was unfair to delay a vote for so long and to make it part of an intelligence bill.
“This is one more attempt to play games with the future of hard-working families,” said Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, one of the leading opponents of Obama’s trade plans.
Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas said the delay would allow House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to bring up the issue for a vote at any time in the next six weeks, with no notice. He said Republicans are looking for “the ideal time to muscle through a broken trade policy.”
Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said that 95 percent of the world’s customers now live overseas and that 1.2 million jobs in her state rely on trade. She said that passing trade-promotion authority, or TPA, is in the best economic interests of her state.
“The allegations that TPA is something for President Obama is false,” she said.
In a big loss for Obama, the House voted overwhelming last week to reject trade-adjustment assistance for American workers who lose their jobs as a result of global trade.
A majority of House Democrats fell in line behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who said that voting against trade-adjustment assistance was the only way to defeat trade-promotion authority.
The Senate passed trade-promotion authority, also known as fast-track authority, last month.
Under fast-track rules, Congress could not amend or filibuster a trade pact once it’s negotiated and submitted for approval.
Critics say that would give too much authority to Obama, while backers of trade-promotion authority say it would be the best way to gain concessions from foreign governments at the negotiating table.
Boehner told reporters Tuesday that he has talked with Obama several times, “trying to find a way to move ahead.”
“No decisions have been made, but when we have one, we'll let you know,” he said.