Lame Duck TPP Push Hands Trump A Powerful Issue Against Clinton

Dave Johnson

More and more the word is getting out that President Obama, along with the giant multinational corporations and Wall Street, will launch a push in Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the “lame duck” legislative session following the election.

President Obama should put a stop to this talk right now. It hands Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a powerful issue to use against – and embarrass – Hillary Clinton, should she become the Democratic nominee.

TPP In Lame Duck

The Los Angeles Times has a story, “Obama races to cement the big Pacific Rim trade deal that all his potential successors oppose,” that includes this:

The most optimistic timeline in Congress appears to be for the deal to come to a vote in the lame duck session. Obama predicted recently lawmakers might vote after at least the primary election season had ended.

This story is one of many in various outlets covering administration, business and other sources describing a coming effort to push TPP through Congress after the election. A few examples:

Wall Street Journal, May 24: “Obama Reasserts Hope for TPP Passage This Year“:

“The goal is, I think, to try to complete TPP by the end of this year,” Mr. Obama said.

…. The White House hopes Republican leaders will help pass the TPP in a lame-duck session before Mr. Obama leaves office in January…

The Hill, May 6: “President Obama urging Congress to pass TPP“:

The Obama administration is working closely with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to build support for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), arguing that delaying votes on the deal will make it harder to pass the agreement, the president said in a Washington Post op-ed.

… Congressional leaders have said that the deal won’t likely be considered until the lame-duck session after the November elections.

The Hill, April 25: “Chamber’s Donohue: TPP vote likely after the elections“:

A top U.S. business leader expects a vote on a massive Asia-Pacific trade agreement after the November elections.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday that election-year pressures will force the Senate to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a lame-duck session to protect several vulnerable Republican incumbents.

You get the picture. It’s coming.

Clinton Credibility Problem

Secretary Clinton has a credibility problem on trade. She said she opposes passage of TPP, but has a problem with people believing that she means it. It doesn’t help that she has said that she will not lobby members of Congress to vote against it.

Clinton is also (unfairly) seen by many as sharing her husband Bill Clinton’s political views, including his successful efforts to push the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has become a shorthand term describing all of the “free trade” agreements and the damage they have done to American wages. By taking credit for the good things that occurred during the Bill Clinton administration, she is open to blame for the bad things, like NAFTA.

The comments when Truthout republished the CAF post, “Clinton Commits: No Trans-Pacific Partnership,” reflect what is seen in any online discussion of Clinton’s statement of opposition to TPP. Following is a small sample (of the printable comments):

I DO NOT BELIEVE her. Obama said he would ‘renegotiate NAFTA’ and now he pushes TPP and [TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership], alias NAFTA on steroids. He said this to get elected and lied. She is no better but I am wiser.

Another campaign promise waiting to be broken. How anyone can believe her at this point is beyond me.

She was strongly against same-sex marriage before and then she said she was for same-sex marriage all the time. Just wait till she gets into the office, she will say she is always for TPP and free trade and lie right in your face. That’s what Hillary is, a chameleon.

This leaves a huge opening for Trump. As President Obama pushes Congress to bring up and pass TPP in the postelection “lame-duck” session, Trump can say that Clinton, should she become the nominee, is “only saying” she is against it “to get votes.” You can just hear him saying, “Look, her President is pushing hard for it and she isn’t telling him not to.”

President Obama is not doing Sec. Clinton, should she become the Democratic nominee – or any other Democrats running for office – any favors by continuing to push for passage of the TPP.

Democratic Convention Platform

One thing that Democrats can do to help Clinton in the election, should she become the nominee, is to pass a strong platform trade plank committing to opposition to TPP and similar “free trade’ agreements, and demanding that Democrats do what they can to stop a vote on TPP from occurring after the election.

Such a platform plank can make it clear that “free trade,” when used as a vehicle to move jobs and production out of the country and drive down American wages, is not something that the Democratic Party will tolerate. Instead the plank can call for a new approach to trade that brings labor, environmental, consumer, human rights, LGBT, health, democracy and other “stakeholder” groups to the negotiating table along with business interests, seeking an approach to trade that lifts stakeholders on all sides of trade borders.

Democrats need to persuade President Obama not to embarrass Clinton, and promise not to bring the TPP before Congress in the lame duck. If he doesn’t pull back, Trump and “down-ballot’ Republican candidates can rightly use the president’s support of TPP as a hammer to pound Democrats.

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