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?

Filed Under: congress, dave camp, fast track authority, max baucus, orrin hatch, tafta, tpp, trade promotion authority, ttip, ustr

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  1. icon
    ArkieGuy (profile), 9 Jan 2014 @ 1:46pm

    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.

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