WASHINGTON – The Republican-dominated House has given President Obama what he wants: so-called “fast-track” authority to negotiate massive trade deals with other countries, cut Congress out of the negotiations and limit lawmakers’ participation to a simple yes or no vote when such treaties are concluded.
And, if the Senate approves the revised bill, as expected, he will get it.
The bill squeaked by on a House vote of 218 to 208.
It was the second try in less than a week and the result of a strategy designed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in consultation with President Obama.
The House technically did pass the trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, bill on Friday. But it did not include a controversial provision included in the Senate version of the bill called Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, which would have provided money to workers who lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade.
Since the Senate and the House had not passed the same version of TPA, it could not go to the president for his signature without changes.
TPA now goes back to Senate, where it is likely to be approved. Senators will take up TAA separately, at some point.
House members effectively halted TPA on Friday, while technically approving it by a narrow margin of 219 to 211, by also shooting down TAA by an overwhelming tally of 302 to 126.
As WND reported they would, GOP House leaders simply dropped the TAA provision from the TPA and held a re-vote on the bill.
That was not a strategy designed to garner many more Democratic votes because House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had made clear on Friday that her vote against TAA was against TPA, not TAA.
“So while I am a big supporter of TAA, if TAA slows down the fast-track, I am prepared to vote against the TAA because then its defeat, sad to say, is the only way that we will be able to slow down the fast-track,” said Pelosi in a reference to TPA just before Friday’s vote.
Rank and file Democrats and Republicans both opposed TAA, but for opposite reasons: Democrats wanted the assistance extended to public-sector workers, while conservatives wanted the provision eliminated entirely.
But numerous Democrats and Republican have opposed TPA for the same reason: it would cut Congress out of negotiations.
Many Democrats are also concerned massive trade deals would lower wages and cost American jobs, while a number of Republicans are concerned such agreements would bind the U.S. to the rulings of international bodies outside the control of American law.
- Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., fears TPA would turn over important congressional powers to a new international body, create an economic union akin to a “nascent European Union” and prevent lawmakers from removing any objectionable provisions. He was also alarmed that the deal could be used to accelerate the immigration of foreign workers at a time when Americans are hurting for jobs.
- Unions such as the powerful AFL-CIO were also concerned it would hurt the American job market and depress wages.
- Environmentalists feared the deal would lead to lax protections.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said the deal would benefit large corporations and banks at the expense of the middle class.
- Warren and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also criticized the secrecy of the details in the deal.
- That put the ultra-liberals on the same side as die-hard conservative Rush Limbaugh, who said having Congress vote on a bill the American people can’’t even read should be enough to oppose it.
- And presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told WND, “President Obama can’t be trusted to negotiate a deal on a secondhand Subaru, let alone a trillion-dollar trade deal like TPP.”
Sen. Sessions issued a statement on Wednesday outlining his great concern that TPA would create a “historic international regulatory Commission … with extraordinary implications for American workers and American sovereignty.”
“It is essential that there be no misunderstanding: fast-track pre-approves the formation of not only the unprecedentedly large Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but an unlimited number of such agreements over the next six years.”
He said just three of these agreements would “encompass three-fourths of the world’s GDP. Including the nations whose membership is being courted for after enactment, the countries involved would encompass nearly 90 percent of global GDP.”
“Yet, through fast-track, Congress will have authorized the President to ink these deals before a page of them has been made public. Then, the Executive sends Congress ‘implementing’ legislation to change U.S. law—legislation which cannot be amended, cannot be filibustered, and will not be subjected to the Constitutional requirement for a two-thirds treaty vote.
“This nation has never seen an agreement that compares to the TPP, which forms a new Pacific Union. This is far more than a trade agreement, but creates a self-governing and self-perpetuating Commission with extraordinary implications for American workers and American sovereignty.
“Such a historic international regulatory Commission should never be fast-tracked, and should never be put on a path to passage until every word has been publicly scrutinized, every question answered, and every last power understood by Congress and the American people.”
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