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GOP Senators Urge Obama to Act on Pending Trade Agreements

More than a dozen Senate Republicans on Tuesday pressed President Barack Obama to move faster on trade agreements leftover from the Bush administration — a push already drawing criticism from House Democrats vying for a new trade model.

In a letter spearheaded by Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), 16 GOP Senators lament that “there has been little substantial progress” in advancing the Panama, Colombia and South Korea trade deals. The GOP Senators call for “the immediate consideration” of all of them.

“We respectfully ask your administration provide, on an expedited basis, to Korea, Colombia and Panama, a well-defined and finite list of those outstanding issues they need to accomplish. … We also request you propose a specific timeline for the enactment of these FTAs,” the letter states.

Signatories on the letter include Hatch and Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Bob Bennett (Utah), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Scott Brown (Mass.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Jim Bunning (Ky.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), George LeMieux (Fla.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), John Cornyn (Texas) and John Ensign (Nev.).

The renewed push for action, however, didn’t go over well with members of the House Trade Working Group, which has been urging Obama to scrap the three deals altogether and come up with a new trade framework that does more for American manufacturers.

“This letter is another clear example of how disconnected the Republican Party in Congress is with mainstream Americans. Our communities, whether in my home state of Illinois or in Sen. Hatch’s Utah, cannot afford more Bush-negotiated trade agreements — they’ve already done enough damage. American workers deserve far better than any of these flawed trade deals have to offer,” Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) said.

Vincent Morris, spokesman for Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), said the trade deals would “do nothing” to help American workers and would take a toll on the economy in the long term.

“Rep. Slaughter has told the president several times that the worst thing he can do is to try and force on Congress some warmed-over trade deals written by the Bush administration,” Morris said.

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