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The House just passed a trade bill, but Obama's trade agenda might still be doomed

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In a razor-thin 218-208 vote, the House of Representatives just approved Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The legislation guarantees that trade deals negotiated by the president will get a prompt up-or-down vote. President Obama has said the legislation is essential to completing work on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal being negotiated by about a dozen Pacific Rim nations.

However, it remains far from certain whether TPA will become law. The Senate has also passed a TPA bill, but that bill came with an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), programs that help workers who lose their jobs due to international competition. For TPA to become law, congressional leaders need to either get the House to pass TAA or get the Senate to pass a TPA bill that doesn't include TAA.

The problem is that neither option looks likely to happen. The inclusion of TAA was essential to getting a critical mass of Democrats to support the Senate trade package. But in the House, majorities of both parties oppose the legislation — albeit for opposite reasons. Most Republicans oppose TAA itself, whereas most Democrats voted against TAA as a way to kill the broader trade package.