Progressives split with Polis over Obamatrade vote

Numerous Democrats took to the House floor prior to Thursday’s late-afternoon vote on the rules-debate to claim that a vote for the Trade Adjustment Assistance was a vote to cut $700 million from Medicare. The vote was the last item of business before the House adjourned.

However, a Congressional aide to Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO, said, today, that wasn’t the case. The aide pointed out that one of the bills passed Wednesday would pay for the assistance program with increased tax compliance. That’s a deal that Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, promised to Democrats who objected to tapping Medicare.

The TAA vote was never about Medicare, Polis’ aide said. Voting against TAA was a vote against the President’s trade agenda. Polis voted in support of TAA because “it’s an effective program to help displaced American workers.”

However, Roll Call reported Wednesday the Medicare cuts are now in a related bill on trade preferences with Africa, a move some Democrats called a “bait and switch.” Should TAA pass next week, the related bill would still have to go to the Senate for approval of that change.

But the vote on the assistance program and the TPP has exposed a schism between the progressive side of the Democratic Party and Democrats who supported the President’s trade agenda.

Polis has been targeted for months by those opposed to the trade deal. In February, the Denver Post reported that an alliance of labor, environmental and social groups picketed his Boulder office, asking him to drop his support for TPP. Opposition to his support of TPP and that of other Democratic lawmakers also has come from the Sierra Club and the AFL-CIO.

AFL-CIO claims that TPP will not protect American jobs and will harm the environment. Yesterday, opponents, including Democrats on the House floor, pointed out that the United States should not create trade agreements with nations that have abysmal human rights records, such as Malaysia and Singapore.


Photo credit: Stop FastTrack, Creative Commons, Flickr.

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


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