Now that the House passed a stand-alone fast track trade promotion authority bill Thursday, the action shifts to the Senate and a likely Tuesday rush vote.
Fast track in essence preapproves the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and future corporate-deregulation and government-privatization agreements by setting aside the normal processes and procedures of our representative government. With fast track, Congress agrees to severely limit debate over these agreements. It agrees to vote very soon after TPP becomes public so the public does not have time to read and analyze its implications and rally opposition. Congress also agrees not to “meddle” with these corporate-written agreements by amending them, no matter what is found to be in the agreements. Finally, the Senate agrees not to filibuster these agreements.
Rushed With Little Advance Notice
The fast track bill was brought to the House floor Thursday morning with very little advance notice, to prevent opponents from being able to rally public opposition in time to again stop it. It passed the House 218-208 thanks to support from 28 “corporate Democrats.”
The House-passed bill does not include trade adjustment assistance measures that provide some assistance to workers who will be laid off by the offshoring that is encouraged by TPP and other such deindustrialization agreements. Because trade adjustment assistance measures were separated from fast track the bill now has to go back to the Senate, where a vote is expected next week.
Senate Is Fast-Tracking Fast Track
The fast track bill is being super-fast-tracked in the Senate and the vote there will come up very, very soon. The bill was forwarded from the House within an hour of the vote, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately filed a cloture motion. Because the Senate will not be in session Friday, and one day must pass after a cloture motion is filed, the Senate will vote on cloture on Tuesday morning.
It is not clear what will happen when the House-passed bill comes up in the Senate. Republicans need at least 12 Democrats to join them to overcome a filibuster. But several Democrats who supported fast track previously had conditioned their support on the bill being coupled with trade adjustment assistance, which was removed in order to force it through the House.
Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, for example, has said she cannot support fast track without an accompanying trade adjustment bill. Cantwell also voted for fast track earlier based on a promise that the Senate would vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. This promise was broken – there has been no such vote. So it is possible that Cantwell and others will see that previous promises were broken, and any trade adjustment promises likely will be broken as well due to Republican opposition.
However, Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Bill Nelson of Florida have said they will support fast track whether or not it contains trade adjustment measures to help the workers that will be laid as a result of TPP.
Obama Reverses Position
President Obama has reversed his earlier pledge to veto a fast-track trade promotion bill that does not include trade adjustment assistance. He now says he will sign this bill without the assistance.
To get Democrats to vote for fast track, McConnell has promised that after it passes there would be a Senate vote on trade adjustment assistance. But he also promised a vote on the Export-Import Bank, which so far has never occurred.
House Republicans oppose trade adjustment assistance, calling assistance for laid-off workers “welfare,” so it is unlikely to pass, no matter what assurances Republican leadership provides. They also oppose the Export-Import Bank, because of a campaign by the Koch Brothers to kill it. Regardless of Senate promises designed to get Democrats to vote for fast track trade authority, House Republicans will not vote to pass either.
What To Do
There is not much time before the rushed Senate vote occurs – likely as early as Tuesday morning.
You must call your two senators today and Monday, and let them know you oppose fast-tracking the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP is secret from the public (if the public knew what was in it TPP would never even get a vote). But senators can read it under several restrictions. Try to get them on record whether they have actually gone to the “secret room” and read TPP or not.
Ask your senators to uphold the filibuster of fast track.