Worker aid program key to passing free trade deals

By JIM ABRAMS | September 19, 2011 | 1:35 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A half-century-old program to help workers displaced by foreign trade holds the key to whether Congress will finally approve trade agreements that both the White House and Republicans in Congress say could invigorate the economy and create jobs.

It's a classic Washington trade-off.

Many Democrats don't like the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama but are open to votes if Congress extends trade adjustment subsidies and training for U.S. workers who lost jobs because of trade. Republicans don't like the worker aid but will go along with it if the trade deals are completed.

The Senate is holding a test vote on the issue Monday. The idea is for Congress to complete both the trade bills and the worker adjustment aid around the same time.