On Wednesday the House Ways and Means Committee voted on the pending free trade agreements that President Obama sent to Congress on Monday. The Colombia agreement passed on a vote of 24-12; the Panama agreement was passed by a margin of 32-3; and the committee voted 31-5 in favor of the agreement with South Korea.
"For the past five years, we have been working towards this day," Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said. "These agreements enjoy broad bipartisan, bicameral support, and are the product of a lot of hard work from all sides. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the president for sending these trade agreements to Congress."
Camp voted for all three of the agreements and said they would be considered on the House floor next week.
A big holdup that kept the agreements from being sent to Congress was the Administration's insistence that Trade Adjustment Assistance be passed. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed to vote on TAA in tandem with the free trade agreements, which facilitated the President sending the agreements to Congress. While TAA is not popular with many Republicans, most say they will vote in favor to move the trade agreements forward.
There was also some controversy surrounding the Colombia agreement as many Democrats are opposed because of the country's history on labor rights and violence against labor leaders. However not all Democrats voted against the Colombia deal. Representative Ron Kind, D-Wis., voted in favor saying that the Administration has taken sufficient steps to improve security for Colombian workers.
According to government and industry estimates, the three FTAs will result in an additional $2.5 billion in additional sales and lead to the creation of over 20,000 jobs, which are critical to creating economic growth and employment for U.S. citizens.