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WASHINGTON – A nationwide, bipartisan survey released Wednesday measuring voters’ attitudes about the “fast-`track” authority the Obama administration is seeking to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement through Congress indicates Republican lawmakers who vote for the measure are risking their careers and could help put Hillary Clinton in the White House.
The survey results are especially bad news for House Speaker John Boehner and leading Republican House members such as Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. Republican voters in general and conservatives in particular have concluded the GOP House leaders are capitulating to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the big business interests attempting to rush the bill though Congress.
Fully 68 percent of Republican respondents nationwide and an overwhelming 74 percent of GOP conservatives said they were “less likely” to vote for a member of Congress who supported giving President Obama fast-track negotiating authority.
The White House wants a simple yea or nay vote on the TPP that would limit debate and prevent congressional opponents from proposing even a single amendment.
“Republican members of Congress and their political advisers ignore at their peril the massive opposition of Republican and independent voters to congressional passage of fast track trade authority,” said Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, in releasing the survey results Wednesday in Washington.
“Republican and independent voters are also gravely concerned about the negative impact the proposed TPP will have on jobs in this anemic recovery.
Kearns said these voters “know firsthand what the Republican leadership studiously ignores: Since the U.S. runs persistently high trade deficits under current outmoded trade policies – a cumulative deficit of $10 trillion in goods since NAFTA – trade displaces many more jobs than it creates and small businesses and their employees suffer disproportionately.”
Kearns explained to WND that the Republican establishment leadership in Washington was running the same risk today that the GOP ran in the 2012 presidential election.
“It was a major reason why Mitt Romney lost,” Kearns said. “Many middle class voters in the Republican Party simply stayed home because the concluded Romney was a big-business guy who was clueless about whether they had jobs or not.”
Kearns said the poll has implications not only for the mid-term congressional elections in 2014 but, perhaps even more importantly, the 2016 presidential election.
“The GOP is now sitting through eight years of an Obama presidency,” he said. “If the GOP wants to sit through eight more years of a Hillary presidency, then all the party needs to do is to support John Boehner and vote fast-track authority for the TPP, a free-trade agreement the Republican voter base does not want to see passed into law.”
Republicans overwhelmingly opposed giving fast track authority to the president (8 percent in favor, 87 percent opposed), as do independents (20 percent to 66 percent). A narrow majority of Democrats are in favor (52 percent in favor, 35 percent opposed).
Demographically, opposition is very broad, with no more than one-third of voters in any region of the country or in any age cohort favoring fast track.
Sixty percent of voters with household income under $50,000 oppose fast track, as do 65 percent of those with incomes over $100,000.
The argument against approving fast track for the TPP deal that proves most convincing to voters focuses on the fast-track process itself: “Fast track gives the president too much power. Congress should meet its constitutional responsibility to review trade agreements carefully and make sure they are in the best interests of American workers and consumers.”
Fully 69 percent of voters say this is a convincing reason to oppose fast-track authorization.
The survey was conducted Jan. 14-18, 2014, by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic pollster, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm. It was jointly sponsored by the Sierra Club, the U.S. Business and Industry Council and the Communications Workers of America.
Earlier this month, WND first reported Republicans in the House were preparing to follow the lead of the White House and Reid to rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the most sweeping free-trade agreement since NAFTA.
On Jan. 9, in a little-noticed statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, together with ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., announced they were introducing “fast-track” trade promotion authority.
The last line of congressional resistance to TPP appears to be coming from House Democrats concerned that more U.S. union jobs will be lost.
Last year, 151 House Democrats opposed to TPP, led by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and George Miller, D-Calif., wrote a letter to President Obama stating their opposition to using “outdated ‘Fast Track’ procedures that usurp Congress’s authority over trade matters.”
This week, as WND reported, political analysts with an impressive group of 564 labor, environmental, family farm and community organizations in the Democratic Party’s voting base sent Obama a strongly worded letter charging that pushing TPP undermines the president’s message on income inequality.
“President Obama can’t have it both ways,” Arthur Stamoulis, the spokesman for Citizens Trade Campaign, the group organizing the letter, told WND. “Either the president is for reducing income eligibility as we expect he will say in the State of the Union address, or he can push for Fast Track legislation on the job-destroying TPP free-trade agreement. He can’t have it both ways.”
WND has also reported Secretary of State John Kerry has signaled the advance of a plan originating with the George W. Bush administration to evolve NAFTA into a European Union-style confederation in North America between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, by putting into overdrive the Obama administration’s effort to rush the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress through fast-track authority.