Fast Track Train Off Rails — For Now

Dave Johnson

Democrats in the U.S. Senate were able to successfully block the trade promotion authority “fast track” bill using a filibuster today. This is a very big setback for the pro-Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) forces, but is not a final defeat.

The final vote was 52-45, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster and move the bill forward to debate and an up-or-down vote. No Republican voted against the filibuster, and every Democrat voted to support the filibuster except Thomas Carper (D-Del.).

Following are statements from a few of the organizations that are working to bring about fair trade that lists people and the environment on all sides of trade borders.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said that the vote was “good news for America’s working families, domestic producers, and communities.” He added:

We appreciate those senators who stood with working people today against a bill that would have led to undemocratic trade deals that lower wages and eliminate jobs. This vote sends a message loud and clear.

If Congress is serious about creating jobs, reviving U.S. manufacturing, and raising wages, it needs to use its leverage to reshape the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It must remove special legal privileges for foreign investors, add enforceable rules to prevent currency manipulation, strengthen rules of origin, and redouble efforts to ensure workers everywhere — from Hannibal, Missouri, to Hanoi, Vietnam — can organize and bargain collectively.

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch issued a statement that began:

The Fast Track train went off the rails today. The U.S. Senate vote was supposed to generate momentum for Fast Track in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it’s in deep trouble, with almost every House Democrats and a significant bloc of GOP opposing it.

The only reason to upend the required procedures for a “revenue bill” and bring up Fast Track in the Senate first was to get a huge victory to build momentum in the House. But that strategy backfired and Democrats in the House remain committed to standing up for their beliefs that the trade package would do a lot more harm than good.

President Barack Obama would now enjoy broad support for a forward-looking trade agenda if only he had implemented the reforms he announced as a candidate, including to “replace” the Fast Track procedure created by Richard Nixon with a more inclusive, democratic mechanism. Instead, Congress is unlikely to revive the 1970s Fast Track trade authority Obama seeks.

Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action issued this statement:

Blocking Fast Track for the TPP is a game-changing victory for Democrats who refuse to sell out main street to Wall Street and for the hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists who have their backs. Just a few weeks ago everyone expected the Fast Track bill to sail through the Senate. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s brilliant maneuver to slow down Fast Track with today’s cloture vote made this victory possible.

Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director, Democracy for America issued this statement:

While we celebrate today’s failed Fast Track vote for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership, the hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists who have united behind Senators Warren, Brown and Sanders to defeat the TPP will not rest until it’s dead, buried, and covered with six inches of concrete.

In poll after poll, the American people have made it exceedingly clear that they oppose Fast Track authority for another NAFTA-style trade deal that will make it easier for huge corporations to ship more U.S. jobs overseas, sell tainted food products in our supermarkets, and challenge our laws in foreign tribunals.

Today, the army of corporate executives and industry lobbyists who wrote the Trans-Pacific Partnership by and for themselves failed to secure support for the Fast Track legislation they know they need to ram their bad trade deal through Congress. We know the forces pushing the job-killing TPP won’t stop here, and they should know, neither will we.

Jason Stanford, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Fast Track, wrote:

There will be a lot of these votes before they pack up the fast track tent and go home, but this was supposed to be an easy win for them. The reason this went badly for them is that enough Senators listened to the folks back home who have been telling them that they don’t want to make it easier to ship jobs overseas. We are grateful that they voted with those voters and not with the corporate lobbyists.”

Justin Krebs, campaign director for MoveOn.org Civic Action:

Today, Democrats in the Senate sent a clear message—that the interests of American workers should come before those of massive, multinational corporations—by preventing Fast Track legislation from being considered.

This clearly shows the strength of the growing movement to stop Fast Track and the TPP, thanks to activists across the country who have been fighting for years against corporate-centric trade deals. A year ago, Fast Track for the TPP seemed unstoppable. Now, Senate Democrats, under the leadership of Leader Harry Reid, have held together to resist this attempt to rush a massive corporate giveaway through Congress.

There is still a long road ahead in the fight against Fast Track, but today shows that activism is working—and is a signal to those undecided members of the House of Representatives, that momentum has shifted against Fast Track, and it’s time for every Democrat who cares about American workers, consumer protections, and environmental regulations to commit to voting against this bill.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI):

It would have been a mistake to provide fast-track authority for trade agreements that could further undermine American wages, manufacturing jobs, and our environment. Past trade deals have hurt Rhode Island workers, and we should review future deals carefully to make sure we’re not repeating the kind of mistakes that have resulted in local jobs moving overseas. I’m glad we were able to defeat this fast-track measure today.


This post has been updated.

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