Senate nears final vote on key worker aid bill

By JIM ABRAMS | September 22, 2011 | 3:05 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is close to passing legislation to help workers displaced by foreign trade, a bill that has become the last obstacle to congressional action on three free trade agreements.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled the final vote on the bill extending provisions of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for Thursday. The Senate vote would send the bill to the House and should result in the White House submitting the three trade bills to Congress for approval.

President Barack Obama and most lawmakers say the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, all pending since the George W. Bush administration, will boost exports and create jobs, but Obama and Democrats say Congress must first renew the program that offers retraining and financial support to displaced workers.