These 13 Democrats Are Helping Rush Fast Track Through The Senate

Dave Johnson

Democratic Senators voted to limit trade debate

Fast track is being super-fast tracked in the Senate. Wall Street and the big corporations really, really want this one and the Senate is responding, including 13 “Democrats.” When the fix is in and you are rigging the game anyway, why bother with the pretense of meaningful and open public debate?

Sometimes a vote is a clear either/or, where you are either voting with Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations or you are voting with 99 percent of Americans who actually (try to) work for a living. These trade votes are one of those clear choices. Thirteen Democrats joined today with Republicans, Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations to rush fast track through the Senate with little public debate and few votes on amendments.

These are the 13 “Democratic” Senators who voted to rush the TPA bill: Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

Big Rush – Fast-Tracking Fast Track

The big corporations are trying to rush fast track through to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership preapproved before any more of the public learns what is going on. They are fast-tracking Fast Track. On a Wednesday press call, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown pointed out that the last time fast track was in front of the Senate, it was debated for three weeks. This time the debate started Tuesday, there was one full day of debate, and now they are rushing a vote for tomorrow — with the help of 13 future lobbyists “Democrats.”

The Senate voted today to end debate on fast-track trade legislation. Again, these are the 13 “Democratic” corporate lobbyists Senators who voted to rush the TPA bill: Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

Note that five Republicans voted against Wall Street and against ending debate and fast-tracking Fast Track: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.).

The Hill reports on this:

Sessions, who has been critical about not getting a vote on his amendment, said just before the vote that he would vote against cloture, saying that the “fast track” legislation meant Congress would “suspend several of its most basic powers for the next six years and to delegate those powers to the executive.”

Coalition Asked For Full And Comprehensive Debate

Before this vote to rush this through, a coalition of 27 leading labor, environmental, and civil rights organizations sent an open letter to Congress urging them to “take a comprehensive and open approach,” writing “We take the consideration of Fast Track so seriously because the agreements it will cover are so vast, making thorough and reasoned debate and consideration critical to our economic future.”

The letter continued:

As such, we do not believe just a few days is adequate time for the Senate to consider this significant legislation. The last time the Senate considered Fast Track it spent three weeks debating the bill. Considering everything at stake with this legislation, and with far-reaching impacts on American workers and the environment for decades to come, debate should certainly be as open, robust, and meaningful as possible. It is more important to debate substance than to adhere to artificially imposed timelines.

That is why we urge you to work to ensure that Fast Track receives the debate and amendment process it deserves. Short-circuiting the amendment process leaves working families’ interests behind. It is critical that you oppose all efforts to cut short or circumvent debate and consideration of vital amendments.

Instead, most Senate Republicans and 32 Democrats instead decided the Senate will rush it through with almost no discussion or amendments. Again, for you long-memory list, those 13 Democrats are Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

They said, in effect, “No ‘comprehensive and open approach’ for you.”

Lori Wallach Statement

Lori Wallach, Director and Founder of Global Trade Watch, a division of Public Citizen, on Senate Cloture on Fast Track:

“The Fast Track bill’s unexpected troubles in the Senate, capped by today’s squeaker vote, certainly did not create the intended momentum for House consideration where Fast Track is known to be in trouble. If President Obama had only follow through on his 2008 campaign promises to replace the Nixon-era Fast Track mechanism with a more inclusive, democratic process, his prospects for obtaining trade authority would not be so dim. Since 1988, only Presidents Reagan and Bush have convinced Congress to provide the multi-year open-ended Fast Track delegation that Obama seeks. In the past 21 years, Congress has only allowed the outdated procedure to go into effect for five years.”

CREDO Action Statement

CREDO Action Deputy Political Director Murshed Zaheed, on the vote:

“By voting to close debate on Trade Promotion Authority, the Senate fast tracked, fast track,” said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director of CREDO Action. “When the Senate debated fast track in 2002, it spent three weeks considering the legislation. This year Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell jammed through TPA, with limited amendments, focused more on getting Senators home for vacation, than on the Americans who have lost their jobs due to poorly negotiated trade deals,” Zaheed added.

MoveOn Statement

Justin Krebs, campaign director for MoveOn.org Civic Action, responded to the Senate reaching cloture today on legislation that would give President Obama Fast Track authority over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secret trade deal that puts corporate interests over the interests of American workers:

“Today, the Senate advanced the dangerous Fast Track bill. MoveOn.org members are disturbed that the Senate would put the interests of massive, multinational corporations ahead of American workers and consumers—and especially disappointed in Democratic Senators Cantwell, Murray, Heitkamp, Coons, and McCaskill. These elected officials betrayed the voters who elected them to office by supporting Trade Promotion Authority that threatens to rush through a secretive trade deal, which could undermine protections for workers, consumers, and the environment, while giving big corporations even more power.”

“MoveOn.org members are troubled by the Senate’s actions today, and we are ready to ensure House Democrats understand that the interests of American workers must come before those of massive, multinational corporations.”

“It’s a testament to the growing movement opposing Fast Track that this vote was as close as it was. MoveOn members will remember elected officials—like Senators Warren, Brown, and Sanders—who continue to fight for strong protections for workers and consumers, for regulations on currency manipulation, against secrecy in trade agreements, and against provisions that increase corporate power.”

“As this moves to the House, we look forward to working with House Democrats to make sure that Fast Track and the job-killing TPP move no further. Every Democrat who cares about American workers, consumer protections, and environmental regulations must commit to voting against this bill.”

Democracy for America Statement

“If Democrats fail to retake the Senate in 2016, a great deal of the responsibility will lie at the feet of the Democratic Senators who set fire to our party’s credibility as champions for working people in the battle against growing income inequality by voting to advance Fast Track for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“From the very start, we’ve known that the real battle against Fast Track for the job-killing TPP would take place in the House and now that it appears set to head there, we’re ready.

“The army of corporate executives and industry lobbyists who wrote the TPP by and for themselves may have survived this key Senate vote, but they should know that hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists who have united behind Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders to fight this job-killing trade deal are just getting started.” — Jim Dean, Chair, Democracy for America

AFL-CIO Trade Policy Specialist Celeste Drake:

“It is disappointing that the Senate decided to move ahead to consider the Fast Track bill that will cede congressional leverage to ensure that US trade deals, including the TPP, help rather than hurt America’s working families. We’ve seen the devastating cost of bad trade deals over the years so we know that Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority is not the way to ensure that the American public receives the full and thorough debate on the vast implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Working people are especially disappointed that several Democratic Senators voted to shut off debate and shut out workers despite assurances they would do the opposite. We’ll be closely watching the next 30 hours of debate, and although the bill now seems poised for eventual Senate passage, we are hopeful that some amendments can be made to reduce the harm it will cause.

“We also look forward to consideration in the House, where this anti-worker legislation will have far less support. If it dies in the House, we can proceed to a real effort to reform trade policy in ways that will benefit the whole US economy.”

It’s Not Over – Even In The Senate

Remember, the real fight is coming up in the House of Representatives. We knew fast track would pass the Senate and we were able to muster at least some delays.

Remember also that there will still be a final Senate vote on fast Track. It still pays to call your senators and let them know you are paying attention – particularly if you live in the state where one of those 13 corporate, job-killing, billionaire-enriching, future lobbyist “Democrats” is your senator. Once again, for your long-memory list, they are Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

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