Nearly a dozen Senate Republicans on Thursday called on U.S. President Barack Obama to send up trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama now that the chamber has passed a bill to renew funding for job retraining.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and 10 other senators wrote a letter to the president saying there is no more reason to delay submitting the Bush-era trade pacts.
"We urge you to take that step immediately," the letter said. "Once you submit these agreements, we are confident that they will be quickly considered and approved by a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress."
Last week, the Senate took a key step toward breaking the deadlock over trade by approving scaled-back funding for workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. But the partisan stand-off then shifted to the House, amid a disagreement over meeting Obama's demand that so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance is passed alongside the trade agreements.
Just before the job retraining bill passed a week ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said he expected the House to pass the retraining funds before the president sends up the trade pacts. The House would hold off on sending the retraining bill to the president's desk until after the trade agreements win final approval, according to Reid's plan.
But Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) quickly shot down that idea, indicating the House wouldn't take any action on the retraining bill until it has its hands on the trade pacts.
In Thursday's letter, the senators cited Boehner's repeated vow to consider the bills "in tandem" as a demonstration "that all that remains for the trade agreements to be successfully considered is for your administration to submit them to Congress for a vote."