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Senate Passes Trade Assistance Bill

Updated: 7:21 p.m.

The Senate passed legislation today to provide job training and other assistance to workers displaced by trade, setting the stage for passage of three free-trade agreements after next week’s recess.

The bill, which the Senate passed 70-27, now goes to the House. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his chamber would take up the measure after President Barack Obama submits the Colombia, South Korea and Panama trade deals.

“We await the President’s submission of the three trade agreements sitting on his desk so the House can consider them in tandem with the Senate-passed … legislation,” Boehner said in a statement. “If the President submits these agreements promptly, I’m confident that all four bills can be signed into law by mid-October.”

It’s not clear whether the administration will go ahead with sending the agreements, however, without a guarantee that the trade assistance measure will reach Obama’s desk.

The White House has demanded passage of the trade assistance legislation before it sends the agreements to Congress, and a coalition of Democrats and Republicans agreed to pass it.

The Senate fended off Republican attempts to narrow the scope of the measure, including an amendment from Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) that would have limited assistance to workers directly affected by a free-trade agreement. The Senate also blocked an attempt by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to force the sale of fighter jets to Taiwan over the objections of the Obama administration.

Democrats warned that if Republicans were successful in altering the bill, they risked upsetting the bipartisan balance needed to pass the trade agreements, which have long been a priority of the GOP and business groups.

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