This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) that would have eliminated a program that provided financial assistance to U.S. manufacturers that had been adversely affected by imports competition. (This program was known as “Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms,” or TAAF.)
Kyl urged support for his amendment: “We have to reduce the cost and reach of government if we are going to prevent fiscal collapse, and that is the primary reason I am focused on this program. It is not a huge amount of money….But that is money we don't have to spend…because this program doesn't work well and in effect, as I am saying, wastes taxpayer money. So if we can't eliminate a program such as this--a program the administration wants to terminate, one EDA [the Economic Development Association] says could be done better with other programs, that doesn't require any great connection or impact by trade imports, that has a questionable track record with high failure rates and outcomes at least no better than firms that don't participate--then I am greatly discouraged about the Senate's ability to effect any kind of actual reform.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) opposed Kyl’s amendment: “I rise in opposition to the Kyl amendment. It is an anti-small business amendment. There is a lot of talk around here about government getting out of the way of job creators, but let's be clear. Firms using TAA are those job creators. They are small businesses such as RBB Systems in Wooster, OH, CB Manufacturing in West Carrollton, and auto and truck suppliers in Bolivar. In my state alone, 96 percent of companies assisted with TAA for Firms--this program that Senator Kyl wants to eliminate--96 percent of those companies that were in business in 2006 are still in business. When a job creator goes out of business because of an unfair trade deal, we know what happens. Workers lose their jobs, communities lose revenues, funds for schools are cut, funds for public services. TAA is a lifeline not just for workers, but this program for firms, TAA for Firms, is a lifeline for small businesses and community schools and all of that which matters to our tax base and our communities.”
[This amendment was offered to legislation that would extend a non-controversial trade program known as the “General System of Preferences” through 2013. This program allows developing nations to ship raw materials to the U.S. without paying duties on those products. Senate Democrats had brought up the non-controversial General System of Preferences bill with the intention of amending it in order to extend trade adjustment assistance programs through fiscal year 2016. (The extension of TAA--which provides job retraining to workers who lost their jobs as a result of trade policy--would effectively clear the way for the enactment of free-trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama; President Obama had indicated he would send those agreements to Congress for approval if the House and Senate passed legislation to extend TAA.)]
The Senate rejected Kyl’s amendment by a vote of 43-54. Voting “yea” were 41 Republicans and 2 Democrats. 50 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have eliminated a program that provided financial assistance to U.S. manufacturers that had been adversely affected by imports competition.