Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and between 10 and 14 "corporate Democrats" in the Senate on Wednesday reached a deal to push "fast track" trade promotion authority through the Senate, essentially preapproving the Trans-Pacific Alliance (TPP). That deal attracted enough votes today (65, with 33 opposed) to break a filibuster that had prevented the fast-track measure from moving forward.
Fast track legislation will soon move to the House, where the real fight will take place.
The deal was that "trade adjustment assistance" (basically job training and other help for some of the people who will lose jobs as a result of TPP) will be folded into fast track, and the Senate will bypass normal procedures and rush a vote today on a "customs bill" (H.R. 644) that includes provisions that crack down on currency manipulation and provisions increasing enforcement of trade violations (which passed, 78-20), the African Growth and Opportunity Act,; and Generalized System of Preferences programs (H.R. 1295).
The currency and enforcement provisions are expected to be stripped out or not brought up for a vote at all when this reaches the House. Speaker John Boehner called the provisions "laughable" on Thursday. But the deal gives Republicans and the "corporate Democrats" the opportunity to tell constituents they supported these provisions, while killing them.
The idea is to rush fast track through as fast as possible. The usual 30 hours of "post-cloture debate" period will be reduced to only eight hours so that the fast track bill debate process can begin this evening instead of in several days. That debate, before the actual vote on the bill itself, will continue next week. The idea is to get the fast Track bill to the House before the coming recess for Memorial Day, so that the public does not have time to learn more about what is going on and possibly organize resistance when legislators return home.
Who Are The Senate Corporate Democrats?
Several "corporate Democrats" have left the solid block of opposition to help break the blockade of fast track. (The official roll call vote has been posted by the Senate.) For your phone calls and your "long memory" list I will post here the names and office numbers of Senate Democrats who voted to proceed with fast track.
Note also that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has not yet told fellow Democrats where she stands on what President Obama calls "rewriting the rules of doing business for the 21st century."
On To The House
The real fight over fast track begins now. The Senate was expected to easily pass it when it came up earlier this week, yet we were able to hold it back with Tuesday's surprise win on the filibuster. This shows that there is strength in the coalition that has formed to stop this, even while the news media has largely kept it under wraps.
The actions this week forced news coverage, and across the country a lot of busy people are starting to notice. "Wait, there's a huge trade bill in the Congress? What? Why is this the first I have heard of this?"
At the same time, many conservative Republicans are concerned about fast tracking TPP. The Drudge Report is running anti-fast track headlines daily. Several of the GOP presidential candidates are opposing fast track. Old-style conservatives like Pat Buchanan understand the damage that enormous, humongous and ongoing trade deficits are inflicting on the country.
Take a look at Buchanan's recent "On a Fast Track to National Ruin": "Who benefits more if we get access to Vietnam's market, which is 1 percent of ours, while Hanoi gets access to a U.S. market that is 100 times the size of theirs?"
ALso see Phyllis Schlafly, "Let's Get On a Pro-American Track":
"Congress, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), is preparing to betray American workers, and the grassroots should rise up and say, "No, you don't." The secretive underhanded deal is called Fast Track, and that's an appropriate title because, indeed, it puts Americans on a fast track to lower wages and fewer available jobs."
It is still possible to kill fast track in the House if we can get enough Democrats to hold steady against it, in spite of the "goodies" the Obama administration and corporations are offering. Stay at it, let friends and family know about these trade bills, and keep the pressure on your own member of Congress.