Strange U.S. House of Representatives Procedure For Passing TPP Trade Agreement

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives (the “lower” chamber of Congress) voted down a workers-aid bill called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

It was a defeat for Obama that could be considered a win for Democrats.

Why did they vote it down? It was considered the only way to vote down “fast-track” trade authority for the TPP.

The TAA bill was rejected in a “lopsided” 126-302 vote, with only 40 Democrats and 86 Republicans voting yes, writes The Hill.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted against it.  Voting down TAA is the only way to “slow down the fast track,” Pelosi declared.

The way they were set up, the TAA and the TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) bills both had to pass in order to send a bill to the president.

The TPA is the “fast-track authority” bill.  Fast-track authority would make it easier to pass the TPP trade agreement (it would be passed on a yes/no vote as opposed to being changed and debated).

Pelosi’s support seemed pivotal.  According to The Guardian, “all of Obama’s efforts proved for naught after Pelosi took the floor and spoke out against the deal.”  She said: “While I’m a big supporter of TAA, if TAA slows down the fast track I am prepared to vote against TAA,” writes The Guardian.

So, it seems she was originally for the TAA and then turned against the deal.

The House then voted on and narrowly passed the fast-track bill (TPA), 219-211, with support from a large number of Republicans and 28 pro-trade Democrats.

This vote didn’t matter much, because, again, the package was structured in such as way that it couldn’t be sent to Obama’s desk without the TAA passing as well.

So, the TAA was shot down, and after that it doesn’t matter if the TPA bill was passed or not.

Interestingly, it’s not over. According to The Hill, House Republican leaders will put the TAA aid bill – traditionally favored by Democrats – on the floor again possibly Tuesday, hoping Obama can flip some “no” votes to “yes” over the weekend.

Obama’s press secretary tried to downplay the President’s loss (but the Democrats’ gain?).

According to The Hill, it’s unlikely the same bill (for the TAA) would produce a dramatically different result next week.

The Republican whip team said it had as many as 93 GOP votes at one point during the TAA roll call, but characterized it as close to the “high-water mark” for the party (in other words, they won’t get more than 93 Republicans to vote for the bill).

Ironically, on Friday morning, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team tried to encourage Republicans to vote for the “leftist” TAA. Again, if the TAA didn’t pass, then fast-track trade authority wouldn’t pass, either.

He made a surprise visit to the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on Thursday. The TAA was already limping along at that point. In the Democrats’ dugout along the third baseline, Obama, sporting sunglasses, cracked jokes and posed for photos with lawmakers.

He didn’t mention trade to the players, but the issue was unavoidable. Fans sitting in the stands behind the Democrats held homemade signs reading: “VOTE NO TAA. NO FAST TRACK.”

Why didn’t the bills get more support?

The Hill states that Democratic critics were unhappy with an amendment that barred climate change provisions in trade deals.

There was also reportedly wording in one of the bills that stated that Medicare cuts were to be used to pay for the TAA. Critics complained that the way the trade bills were structured meant Democrats would still have to vote for Medicare cuts, even though they were eliminated in a separate trade bill. Voting for Medicare cuts, opponents argued, was tantamount to political suicide.

(Updated article)

Bernie Sanders States Hillary Should Take A Position On TPP Trade Agreement

The Daily Caller / CNN

Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called out Hillary Clinton for not having a clear position on the TPP trade agreement.

Sanders has made his position against the agreement clear, and recently called it “disastrous.”

In an op-ed column in the New Hampshire Union Leader earlier this month, he wrote that every union and almost every environmental organization is against the trade deal.  He states that many religious organizations are also against the trade deal.

Click to access TPP-FAITH.pdf

Does Clinton Have Issues With Unions And The TPP?

The likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has yet to show her feelings towards the latest effort to pass “fast track” trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

However, that could happen as soon as Monday morning when she takes the stage with prominent labor leaders at a Washington event put on by a liberal-leaning political think tank.

What she says could improve or worsen her position with unions, Democratic colleagues in Congress, the business community, and/or the sitting president, Barack Obama.

Liberal Democrats urging Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to get in the presidential race want Clinton to clarify her position as early as possible, given the fact that there is pending action in Congress on a “fast track” trade promotion authority bill, said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for Democracy for America.

Sroka said that some of the first questions she is asked as a presidential candidate could be about TPP and fast track.

“There’s lots of reasons that people are excited about getting Elizabeth Warren into the presidential race, but her outspokenness in the battle against TPP … is something that speaks to the progressive base’s concerns and is attracting people to this campaign.”

Union groups, including the AFL-CIO labor federation, also have deep concerns about the prospective trade pact with Japan and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific that, along with the United States, represent more than 40 percent of world gross domestic product.

“Every single thing in our trade deals should be openly discussed and subject to public oversight and the full legislative process,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a recent speech. “There should be no question about that. Fast track is wrong and undemocratic. It’s a rotten process, and the American labor movement intends to kill it.”

The labor federation fears the deal will encourage companies to move more jobs overseas, suppressing wages in the United States.

Obama wants Congress to approve the legislation quickly so he can wrap up the TPP pact and submit it to Congress for a vote later this year.

Trade promotion authority would allow him to submit trade agreements, like the proposed TPP, to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote without any amendments.

The next president – whoever it is – could also use the authority to negotiate a deal bringing China into the pact.

Trade promotion authority is also known as “fast track” because of its expedited voting procedures that union groups and many progressive Democrats don’t like.

Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, used the “fast track” procedure to win approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute blames for hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.

Clinton voted against the fast-track legislation the last time it was approved in 2002, although her husband repeatedly pushed for the same authority when he was president.

However, as Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton was closely associated with the agreement.


(Updated article)