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...