Congress Introduce Bi-Partisan Bill To Abdicate Its Own Role And Screw Over American Public All At Once

from the shameful dept

We knew this was happening sooner or later, but Senate Finance chair Max Baucus, along with ranking member Orrin Hatch, have introduced the “fast track authority” bill in the Senate. Over in the House, the same basic bill has been introduced by Rep. Dave Camp. There had been rumors that the introduction of the bill would be delayed because not a single House Democrat would co-sponsor the bill, but apparently the existing bill supporters decided not to wait. Fast track authority or “trade promotion authority” is a very dangerous concept. It is basically Congress completely abdicating its Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, which grants Congress the sole power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”

Instead, what fast track authority means is that Congress is saying, “that’s okay, you guys in the administration can handle that.” Basically, it’s Congress flat out telling the White House and the USTR that it, and not the Congress, can come up with trade agreements with foreign powers, and Congress will tie its own hands in being able to challenge or review the various provisions. Instead, it will limit Congress entirely to an up or down vote on the entire trade agreement. And, in this case, the fast track authority will be used to approve the TPP (and likely TAFTA/TTIP after that). These are trade agreements that, as we’ve already discussed, are designed to help certain legacy industries at the expense of innovation and the public. Specifically, this would grant the administration four years of “fast track authority” with an easy three year extension after that.

The most ridiculous part is that the sponsors of the bill that will give up Congress’ own powers are claiming that it does the opposite:

TPA-2014 also provides greater transparency and gives Congress greater oversight of the Administration’s trade negotiations.

Uh, no. It does the exact opposite. It takes away Congress’ Constitutional powers to regulate commerce with other nations, providing less oversight for trade negotiations and guaranteeing even less transparency than the almost none that exists today. The sponsors of the bill are pretending that the details in the 107 page bill “instruct” the USTR how to properly negotiate things like the TPP, but it’s basically just repeating the USTR’s existing wishlist. Included are, of course, a section on the importance of “high standards of intellectual property protection” as well as support for dangerous corporate sovereignty tribunals, commonly referred to as “investor state dispute settlement” plans.

While this bill is moderately bipartisan in the sponsorship (with Senator Baucus selling out the majority of his party who is opposed to it), it’s the Republicans who are the driving force behind this. And that makes no sense at all. This is the same Republican party who shut down the entire federal government to block the president’s healthcare proposal, and has spent years attacking anything that even has the mild stench of the executive branch taking on a role that goes beyond what the Constitution allows. And yet here they are gleefully handing over the Constitutionally-given reins for regulating foreign commerce… to the president they hate? How does that make any sense at all?

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Comments on “Congress Introduce Bi-Partisan Bill To Abdicate Its Own Role And Screw Over American Public All At Once”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Really, so many of the problems with this nation would vanish if Congress had to walk through a hallway lined with the skulls of their predecessors to get to work each day. Call it the “Hall of Treason’s End” or somesuch.
Just add a new skull or two every once in a while, and they’d be tripping over themselves to do their jobs properly. And with actual good governance, monopolies would dissolve (e.g. the telcos), the economy would improve, unemployment would drop, policies that had run amok would be reined in (e.g. the NSA), the suicide rate would go down…
Lose a few corrupt officials, save uncountable lives, make the world a better place. Win-win-win.

Anonymous Coward says:

You knew this had to come at some point. The fast track authority has expired and is no longer valid without renewal. This has been what the USTR and the administration has been banking on with the TPP. I seriously doubt at this point it has the support to pass. Too many are pointing to problems with how trade treaties are now being done by the USTR.

Even if they pass it, unless the US can come up with new arm twisters, it is unlikely to pass the global approval beyond a select group participating in it now.

The Conscious Catholic says:

Re: Re:

“Even if they pass it, unless the US can come up with new arm twisters, it is unlikely to pass the global approval beyond a select group participating in it now.”

I completely forgot about global approval UN is already fighting with corporations on who gets the run the planet, but even is Fast-Track doesn’t pass, the snobs will try another way, and we will be ready

Anonymous Coward says:

Can Congress give away that which the Constitution mandates?

I don’t see how Congress can, regardless of how many sponsors or votes a bill gets, pass anything that is in direct conflict with that specified in the Constitution. Last I looked, that document had not yet been thoroughly repealed (if somewhat tattered and beaten around the edges). Can;t imagine this would withstand the most rudimentary of constitutional challenges.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Can Congress give away that which the Constitution mandates?

I don’t see how the federal government can PRINT money when the constitution only gives them the power to COIN money, but that doesn’t stop them from printing paper money. (Yes, the founding fathers did argue over paper vs coin money when they wrote the constitution, it wasn’t worded that way because it simply sounded better).

I also don’t recall the constitution stating that the president can also declare war, or that we send in our army to topple foreign governments through votes of ‘use of military force’ rather than votes of declarations of war.

The government can do whatever blatantly unconstitutional things it wants if no one in any of the 3 branches of government stops them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Can Congress give away that which the Constitution mandates?

It also outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, but that didn’t stop them from drafting people into the military and doesn’t stop them from making people serve on juries.
And don’t even get me started on the first, second, fourth, and tenth amendments.
But hey, at least the government faithfully abides by the sixteenth.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Can Congress give away that which the Constitution mandates?

Congress passes unconstitutional laws routinely. They’re still laws until a court strikes them down. Sometimes, it’s hard to blame congress for this — it’s not always obvious that there’s a constitutional issue with a given law — but sometimes, they’re gaming a weakness in the system. If appealed all the way to the supreme court, an unconstitutional law can remain on the books for many years before it finally gets struck down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid People everywhere!!!

So now that it has become common practice to rewrite the Constitution without you know… actually getting amendments written, debated, and voted on whats next?

If you believe that this law would actually be legal if they “pass it” then you need reeducation.

Our government is flat out acting like a criminal organization without any repercussions.

Nixon was a fucking saint compared to the idiots in there now.

out_of_the_blue says:

It's NOT "the Republicans", Mike: it's THE ESTABLISHMENT.

Why do you even go off on silly “partisan” ranting? There are NO “Republicans” or “Democrats” in Congress for the last 20 years or so, just pro-corporate Establishment hacks. You should drop all mention of R’s and D’s, it’s childish at this point. The blundering around of your last paragraph is then unnecessary.

Apparently you’ve already forgotten the anti-corporatist bit you took up late December, go rabbiting off on sheerly political tripe without mention of the beneficiaries of TPP.

If gov’t doesn’t tax money away from The Rich to use for The People, then The Rich use that money to further corrupt gov’t.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's NOT "the Republicans", Mike: it's THE ESTABLISHMENT.

Maybe because the Republicans and Democrats like to portray themselves as being a legitimate alternative of the other (which might be true on a few trivial but emotionally-charged issues, like the legality of flag-burning, sodomy, etc.) but in fact there’s no difference between them anytime there’s entrenched interests, lobbyists and campaign dollars being waved in their faces.

I’m sure most of us would support either party that would support people-friendly proposals like ending copyright term extensions, guaranteeing fair-use exemptions, or demanding that a DMCA claim be verified by a human before being sent(no more mass-mailing auto-bots spewing legally-binding accusations). But since the vested corporate interests are in direct opposition to the public-interest on such issues (and there are rarely advocates for the public interest working Capitol Hill) there’s little chance of that ever happening.

Even when the people demand change and candidates promise it repeatedly, it won’t happen. That Obama turned out to be a staunch supporter of the very things he campaigned against so vociferously should not surprise anyone in the least.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not necessarily. Corporate sovereignty will allow what it says in the agreement. I imagine any three letter agencies will be made explicitly untouchable in the scope of future international agreements using the tool!

Corporate sovereignty holds some merits in some situation (when dealing with dictatorships in particular), but between countries with somewhat working democracies it holds only few upsides and huge potential downsides!

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

Blowback from SOPA?

Could it be that Congress saw how much of a hot potato SOPA was and how many people got ticked off and might not vote for them, so they are offloading the blame on the executive branch if TAFTA (etc) pisses everyone off.

Nah… couldn’t be. That would mean that they are smart enough to SEE that people are likely to get pissed off and they are too oblivious for that.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Hold on...

Unless the US government changed when I wasn’t looking, passage of bills goes first House then Senate, and then they have to come to an agreement on it, and not the other way around?

We all knew this was coming back at the end of November when nothing happened despite the USTR/Obama begging Congress to pass the legislation giving the scumbags at the USTR the ability to force the TPP down our throats on a silver platter.

However, we’re forgetting that midterms are this year, so the drop in Congressional productivity will hamper any chance of the Senate Finance Chair getting his bill passed…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Hold on...

However, we’re forgetting that midterms are this year, so the drop in Congressional productivity will hamper any chance of the Senate Finance Chair getting his bill passed…

Well, maybe. If an important voting period is coming up, it’s quite likely the ones pushing the bill(s) will be strongly ‘urging’ other congress/senate critters to pass this, so they can look like they’re ‘doing something’, and the ability to look like they’re ‘doing something’, while at the same time skipping out on actually having to do anything more than vote twice(one for FTA, one for the ‘trade agreement’) is likely to be very tempting to a lot of them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Well that's handy

Oh I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with the fact that they’re trying to get it back(because remember, it lapsed, and so is available no longer) in order to force through a ‘trade agreement’ that’s been kept completely secret from the public and most of the government, with the few pieces that have slipped out revealing it to be basically a wishlist for a few specific industries(industries that have had representative and ‘advisers’ involved from day one of the negotiations), forcing the people in congress and the senate to either agree to the entire thing, or disagree to it all, without being able to weed out any objectionable parts from the good parts.

Also, if you really believe that all of the various parts of the ‘trade agreement’ are good, beneficial, and can stand under scrutiny, you should have no problem with the government and the people being able to go over, and reject or approve each piece on an individual basis, rather than the ‘all or nothing’ approach that FTA would turn it into.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Well that's handy

Lots of things lapse and need reauthorization. Like long term unemployments, budget authorization, the Farm Bill, etc.

This agreement has been done any differently today than it has since before most of those whining were born. You seem to fail to understand the difference between legislation and diplomacy.

I doubt you know anything about any other chapter than the IP chapter. And within that, I doubt you know (or care about) anything other than weakening copyright. So now you somehow think that copyright should be the tail that wags the dog?

That’s precisely why an up/down vote is needed. so that extremists cannot torpedo an entire agreement over their one pet concern. The environmentalists would love a line item veto, so would organized labor. Congress has the ability to vote it down. What chaps your ass is that your desire to enfeeble copyright has to compete with the other components of the agreement. You clowns are always talking about competition. Here’s a perfect opportunity for you to compete with the other trade concerns in the TPP. Go have at it.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Well that's handy

AC, our beef with TPP is all about getting Congress to represent we the people, not the damn corporations.

Go to Ecuador and take a look at the pollution Chevron is responsible for. Basically, when Ecuador complained, they took them to court, which ordered a sovereign nation to change its environmental laws to suit Chevron.

That is our future if TPP passes.

Oh, and pray to the Market that you never get sick; they’re planning to ramp up “evergreening” on drugs.

Enjoy corporate tyranny.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Well that's handy

So if your representative is not representing the majority of the people in his district, how does he get elected? Maybe you should emerge from Mom’s basement every other November and make your objections known at the polls. Maybe make your views known at a town hall meeting or your rep’s district office. Maybe organize opposition by like-minded people. Or even run yourself.

Ninja (profile) says:


So the Congress has failed in overseeing the espionage madness allowing the NSA to reign free, it is simply ignoring tons of abuses by law enforcement and now wants to abdicate yet more capabilities of overseeing stuff? Why have a congress in the first place then if it doesn’t do its job? Just close the damn thing down and let those morons sleep on the streets.


derek (profile) says:

"How does that make any sense at all?"

The Republicans are pushing this, and it has bipartisan support, because it simplifies the process of buying policy.

From a party perspective, this is a win-win. Less opportunities for individual politicians to exert granular influence, more opportunities for business interests to write and pass agreements wholesale.

The point of this bill is to make it easier for corporations and trade associations to get what they want.

Anonymous Coward says:

It makes complete sense once you realize that Obama is a ringer, a replacement for George Bush, who walks, talks and acts like a democrat, but who takes orders from the GOP on everything – a corporate puppet president. The astute among you might note that Obama has completed everything that Bush started and has pretty much fulfilled the republican dream since taking office.

After all, even the stupidest of Republicans realized they could never get another Republican Warlord into the White House after Gee Dubya Bush, even with a fully rigged election process, so they did the next best thing. They bought themselves a democrat-for-hire and made sure all the competing democrat and republican candidates were utter wack-jobs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It makes complete sense once you realize that Obama is a ringer, a replacement for George Bush, who walks, talks and acts like a democrat, but who takes orders from the GOP on everything – a corporate puppet president.

Everything like the Affordable Care Act, or raising the debt ceiling, or raising taxes on the rich, or extended unemployment benefits, or immigration reform, or cap-and-trade, or recognizing gay marriage, or increasing the minimum wage?.. is that what you mean?

Honestly, you have to be the stupidest motherfucker to grace these pages in a long while.

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