WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of U.S. workers displaced by foreign competition face being excluded from a program to help because of congressional disputes over federal spending and the administration’s trade policy.

Expansions to the half-century-old Trade Adjustment Assistance program incorporated in the 2009 economic stimulus act expired Saturday after efforts to extend them were rebuffed in the House and Senate this past week. Of the 400,000 workers certified to receive TAA services since the stimulus act passed two years ago, 170,000 might not have been eligible under the old, pre-2009 criteria, according to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

The program has provided retraining and financial aid to trade-displaced workers since 1962. It was significantly enlarged two years ago. Eligibility was extended to displaced service and government workers and farmers. Funds were added for retraining and subsidies were increased to help displaced workers keep their health insurance. In addition, communities hit hard by trade became eligible for aid.

White House economic adviser Gene Sperling estimated that 155,000 Americans will lose access to the job training if the expanded program isn’t continued. “Now is not the time to turn our backs on those who are trying hard to be part of a 21st-century American work force,” he said.

Lacking the votes to pass it, Republicans leaders in the House last Tuesday pulled a bill that would have extended both the expanded TAA benefits and a law that provides trade benefits to several South American nations. On Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt to bring the package to the floor. It’s not clear if they will try again in the coming week.