House Caves On Fast Track, Issues Moves Back To The Senate

from the this-is-ridiculous dept

The process for shoving through dangerous corporation-driven trade agreements has been a bizarre procedural mess, but unfortunately it took another step forward earlier today. As we’ve reported, at the end of May, after some tinkering, the Senate voted in favor of giving the President “fast track” authority (which effectively cedes Congress’s Constitutional powers over international commerce to the President). There had been a brief hiccup in that process until the Senate agreed to tie the fast track bill (officially known as “Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA) to a separate program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which helps provide training programs for workers displaced over trade. At that point, everyone thought that the fight was now entirely about the House. And, in a surprise move, late last week the House overwhelmingly rejected the TAA part, with many Democrats voting against it — even though it’s a program they support. The claim was that they voted against it as a protest over the fast track provision, which they didn’t like — though, oddly, right after that they did a “show vote” approving fast track, even though it was procedurally meaningless.

The original plan was then to pull another procedural trick to re-vote for TAA on Tuesday of this week, but after realizing they simply didn’t have the votes, that vote was pushed off until at least July 30th. However, supporters of the big trade deals apparently huddled yesterday and finally came up with a plan B: they would separate out the TAA and TPA but with a promise from Republicans that they would come back together later, and the President more or less said he wouldn’t sign the TPA unless TAA came with it.

Either way, this plan B has now gone into effect and narrowly succeeded in the House with a 218 to 208 vote, meaning that even though we thought this was done in the Senate, the fight now returns there. The Democratic Senators who voted for the combined package originally now need to see if they trust everyone to also support TAA if they vote for TPA.

Yes, it’s a confusing mess — but basically this fight now goes back to the Senate with a pretty good chance that there will be enough votes to give the President fast track authority. There are some questions on that front, but it’s close enough that someone is likely to cave. And then it appears we’re right back to the fight over the TAA. If it’s true that the President really won’t accept TPA without TAA, the House still needs to pass TAA and that wasn’t possible as of Tuesday. This is a procedural move that moves the process forward, but it’s still not a done deal that the trade agreements will happen. Of course, there is the risk that the President will go back on his word and because he’s so desperate to get the TPP agreement approved, that he’ll accept the TPA without the TAA… and that will truly screw over his own party while helping Republicans massively, since they hate the TAA program. The question, really, is how badly the President wants that trade agreement. Is he willing to screw over his own party to make it happen?

In short: this fight isn’t over yet, and for now it goes back to the Senate… but it will probably also return to the House before long, and may involve the President. And, so, we wait…

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Comments on “House Caves On Fast Track, Issues Moves Back To The Senate”

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24 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Obama's motivation?

We don’t know the motivation since the bill is secret. Perhaps this should not be surprising since we already have secret courts, secret decisions, secret “interpretations” of laws, secret surveillance of the public, etc. Now we can add secret bills to the mix.

The simple political fact is that there is something in this that somebody with serious influence really, really wants. More than likely, they know that it would have been even harder to pass if the public really got to examine it first.

Now that Congress seems poised to pass it, maybe we can learn what’s in it (shout-outs to Rep. Pelosi and Rep. Ryan) – unless our glorious leaders decide the law is just too sensitive for ordinary subjects, er citizens, to know and they add “secret laws” to our semi-free lives.

David says:

Re: Re: Obama's motivation?

We don’t know the motivation since the bill is secret. Perhaps this should not be surprising since we already have secret courts, secret decisions, secret “interpretations” of laws, secret surveillance of the public, etc. Now we can add secret bills to the mix.

Well, it’s obvious that we have a secret president nobody voted for. Who is it, and what does he stand for?

Aaron Wolf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Obama's motivation?

No president goes on to a regular job. No president is later someone’s employee. Presidents can do speaking gigs or writing or whatever if they care to be insanely rich. Otherwise, they get some sort of pension so they are set for life anyway.

The best assumption is that Obama is actually politically supportive of this garbage, like he really believes in it. Ugh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Obama's motivation?

“Presidents can do speaking gigs or writing or whatever”

I doubt former president Bush is literate enough to write, at least not competently. I suppose anything he writes could make for some good comedy. At least every time he spoke what came out was mostly hilarious gibberish that didn’t make much sense. Perhaps if he does a speaking gig he can be a comedian.

Jason says:

Re: Re:

You’ll find the phrase “and for other purposes” in a lot of bills.

I’ve always considered it yet another example of the dysfunction of Congress…bills are glommed together, rewritten, or even changed entirely, like there’s a self-imposed slot assignment on everything and woe befall the legislator who wants to pull an existing bill from the schedule and replace it with something that was created from a blank page to be on point.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Do you even need to ask?

The question, really, is how badly the President wants that trade agreement. Is he willing to screw over his own party to make it happen?

The answer is yes, absolutely. If he’s willing to sell out and screw over the entire country on this and other matters, what makes you think he’d hesitate for even a moment doing to same to his party?

AI says:

Re: Re:

I doubt the Senate will vote on it right away. They will need to work out all the negotiations again like they did in May (plus cloture votes and amendments) before they vote.

Either way, the longer this TPA drags on, the lesser the chances TPP will be easily ratified. Remember, Obama wants this TPA now so he can close the negotiations and get TPP ratified before 2016 when election primaries begin.

Anonymous Coward says:

TD - Thanks for the vote count link!!!

Mike,

Thank you so much for including the link for the “218 to 208 vote” detail. Saved me the time of tracking it down (always a headache). With that link I was quickly able to see how my rep voted (and know whether or not I’ll be voting for him the next time he runs). Very much appreciated.

Thanks,

Anonymous Coward

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