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Russ Feingold
stated on May 9, 2016 in a news conference:
Says Ron Johnson justifies his support of trade agreements by saying the U.S. has the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for displaced workers, but then he "voted to eliminate it."
true barely-true
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, left, a Democrat, is facing Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in the 2016 election. Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, left, a Democrat, is facing Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in the 2016 election.

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, left, a Democrat, is facing Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in the 2016 election.

By Jonathan Anderson July 6, 2016

Testing Russ Feingold claim about opponent Ron Johnson's views on trade, help for workers

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson tells viewers in a new television ad, "I respect you enough to tell you the truth."  

But his Democratic challenger has suggested otherwise.

At a Milwaukee campaign event in May 2016, Russ Feingold said Johnson touted a worker protection program called Trade Adjustment Assistance to justify his support for free trade agreements — even though Johnson had sought to eliminate the program.

Feingold said: "Let's be very clear. Senator Johnson says — to excuse his position on trade agreements — he says, well, we have the TAA. Guess who voted to eliminate it."

When Feingold was asked by reporters to elaborate, he said Johnson voted at least once against providing three-year grants to technical colleges to train displaced workers who were eligible for the program.

Is Feingold right?

How the program works

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program dates to the 1970s and was created to help workers who lost their jobs -- or whose wages or hours have been cut -- because of foreign competition. The program, in part, offers displaced workers temporary benefits and pays to train them with new skills so they can find a new job.

In Wisconsin, the federal government has spent nearly $220 million in the last six years for worker benefits and training, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That includes money for enhanced vocational training through the state’s technical colleges in programs such as information technology, healthcare and manufacturing.

Proponents of the TAA program say it can lessen the blow of job losses that occur when companies move operations overseas to reduce labor costs — a practice that critics contend is facilitated by free trade agreements the United States has struck with other countries.

Johnson has voiced general support for free trade, while Feingold voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement when he was a U.S. senator and has opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Feingold’s claim has two parts:

Did Johnson specifically cite the Trade Adjustment Assistance program as a defense of trade agreements?

Featured Fact-check

When we asked Feingold’s campaign for backup, officials pointed to a statement Johnson made in a May 2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article: "Free trade does help all economies. And there are dislocations. There are protections against those dislocations. We all support being able to help workers that have been displaced."

Despite what Feingold said, Johnson did not explicitly refer to the TAA in that statement. Rather he voiced general support for helping displaced workers.

Indeed, Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger told us the TAA is "ineffective and duplicative" and in need of "major reforms."

Johnson’s campaign also pointed to a House Budget Committee report that said the federal government has other forms of aid, including at least 35 job training programs among eight departments and agencies.

There are "dozens of programs to help people who need assistance," Reisinger said.

Did Johnson vote to eliminate the Trade Adjustment Assistance program?

Johnson voted in September 2011 against a bill to reauthorize the program, although the measure passed despite his opposition.

Feingold also noted that Johnson voted at least once against providing three-year grants to technical colleges to train displaced workers eligible for TAA help.

Those grants were part of the 2009 economic stimulus package, which was approved before Johnson was in office. But Johnson voted for legislation in 2011 that would have reduced TAA spending to pre-2009 levels; that proposal also failed.

At the time, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he offered the measure because of concerns with TAA’s effectiveness and because stimulus spending was supposed to be temporary.

Our rating

Feingold said Johnson had referred to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to defend his position on trade agreements — but had voted against the TAA.

However, Johnson referred only generally to worker "protections," not to the TAA specifically. He did vote against reauthorizing the program in 2011 and also voted around the same time to pare down funding, which would have had the effect of cutting a career training program.

Our definition for Mostly False is "The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression."

That fits here.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/44c310bb-c766-4443-845a-8caafb23aa40

Our Sources

Congressional Research Service, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers: Reauthorizations Proposals in the 114th Congress, In Brief," May 15, 2015

Email, Ron Johnson campaign Press Secretary William Allison, June 10, 2016

Email, Russ Feingold campaign spokesman Michael Tyler, June 1, 2016

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ron Johnson launches statewide ad campaign, touts manufacturing roots," June 7, 2016

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ron Johnson, Russ Feingold squabble over Trans-Pacific Partnership," March 17, 2016

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Johnson talks 2016 rematch with Feingold," May 19, 2015

Russ Feingold, comments at economic roundtable, May 9, 2016, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Washington Post, "Senate passes Trade Adjustment Assistance extension, paving way for trade deals," September 22, 2011

U.S. Roll Call Votes 112th Congress – First Session, H.R. 2832 (Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011)

U.S. Roll Call Votes 112th Congress – First Session, McCain Amendment No. 625 (Statement of Purpose: "To extend the trade adjustment assistance as in effect before the enactment of the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance of 2009")

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program," accessed June 28, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers: Report to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives December 2010," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers: Fiscal Year 2011 Report to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers: Fiscal Year 2012 Report to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers Program: Fiscal Year 2013 Report to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers Program: Fiscal Year 2014 Report to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, "Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers Program: Fiscal Year 2015 Report to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America: Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution," accessed June 20, 2016

U.S. Senator John McCain, "Remarks by Senator John McCain Introducing TAA Amendment," September 21, 2011

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, "Grant helps WITC move welding program forward," accessed June 27, 2016

Wisconsin Technical College System, "Advance Wisconsin," accessed June 20, 2016

 

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