WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House prepared to vote on a major trade package that gives President Bush enhanced authority to negotiate trade deals while extending new protections to U.S. workers battered by global competition. The White House called the compromise a breakthrough and Bush planned a trip to the Capitol to lobby for it personally.
Bush was to make a late-afternoon appearance before the full House Republican membership.
Working late into the night Thursday, House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on a compromise package shortly before midnight. The House was expected to take it up Friday, its last day before leaving on a five-week summer recess.
Bush, who from his first days in office has urged Congress to give him the "fast track" or trade promotion authority that every president since Gerald Ford has enjoyed, has pressed lawmakers to send him a bill before leaving for the summer.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer expressed delight at the agreement forged by the House and Senate negotiators. "It was a real breakthrough in the Congress last night," he said.
Fleischer said Bush would urge Republican unity behind "the milestone accomplishment of passing trade promotion authority."
The spokesman said the White House recognized, however, that there was still considerable opposition to the trade bill, suggesting that was a reason for the president's visit. "We go on the operating assumption that it will be close," he said.
Earlier this week, Bush called the legislation "an important part of a legislative package necessary to create jobs and keep the economy going."
The Senate, in session one more week before leaving for its August recess, is likely to vote on the bill next week.
Trade promotion authority allows the president to negotiate new global trade deals that Congress may approve or reject but cannot change. The authority expired in 1994 and Congress rejected several attempts by President Clinton to get it renewed.
To win passage this year in the Democratic-controlled Senate, an ambitious plan was attached to expand the four-decade-old Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which gives financial and training benefits to workers displaced by foreign competition.
Particularly, it for the first time provides a health insurance subsidy to laid-off workers.
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