Friday, June 19, 2015

208.5 - Update on fast-track for TPP

Update on fast-track for TPP

Okay, last week I gave what was then the most timely update on the question of Obama getting Trade Promotion Authority, or fast-track, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the massive, still-secret trade deal looking to unite 12 Pacific Rim nations, involving 40% of the world's economy, in a single massive free-trade zone.

Unfortunately, the one thing I couldn't tell you was how the vote on the motion turned out because it was to take place on Friday, two days after I recorded the show. So even though events were moving fast, in a way I couldn't. I had to lag behind.

Ah but now it's this week and in case you've been asleep for the past several days, let me update you.

I mentioned last week that fast-track had become even more controversial in the House of Representatives because of a move to finance extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which is intended to help workers out of a job due to trade agreements, with a $700 million cut in Medicare. The pro-TPP gang tried to finesse the issue by holding two separate votes, one on trade assistance and one on fast-track and we'd have to see how that worked out.

Happily, it didn't. The rules of debate required that both bills, trade assistance and fast-track, pass in order for the package to move forward.

With unions, environmentalists, privacy advocates, consumer groups, health care groups, family farmer associations, civil rights groups, and even church groups pushing for defeat, when the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill came up for a vote on June 12, it went down to a resounding defeat, 302-126. The GOPper leadership insisted on going ahead with the vote on fast-track, even though that was now symbolic. That did pass, by the narrow vote of 219-211.

Corporate media have a storyline ready to explain the outcome: It was all the fault of (gasp-shrink-in-horror) "Big Labor." And they said it in sometimes very revealing language.

For example, USA Today said House Democrats are opposing TPP "for a simple, but not very good, reason. Labor has pulled out all the stops to persuade, cajole and pressure them into killing it," adding later that blocking the pact "would be widely interpreted as the Democrats putting the interests of unions first."

Omigosh how horrifying! How disgraceful! The Democrats - not all of them I hasten to add, but enough - Democrats supported the interests of a core constituency! They put the interests of ordinary working people ahead of those of transnational corporations and international banks! How DARE they!

Remember what I keep telling you about they are not on your side. Sometimes the mask slips a bit, sometimes is slips a little more.

Anyway, what the symbolic vote the fast-track did was give the pro-corporate lobby that is the House leadership a basis to push for a re-vote the next week.

The re-vote never came - or, more accurately, hasn't come.

Instead, on June 16, the House voted 236-189 to put off the vote on trade adjustment aid for six weeks, until the end of July.

The first thing to note is that this makes clear that the corporate lackeys in the House - and the White House - still don't have the votes to get fast-track through. And they want to give themselves time to cajole, confound, and coerce enough members to get the Amazing Mr. O the banker-pleasing power on trade that he wants. In fact, they want to give themselves all the way until the summer recess, which indicates they know this won't be easy.

It also means, by the same token, that despite what happened on Friday, this is not over - fast-track and through it the TPP have been wounded, wounded badly, but this is not over.

Still, there are additional hopeful signs in that some of the other nations involved are getting rattled.

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said things are getting "quite problematic" and it appears the government is close to admitting defeat on the whole deal.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam is saying that US credibility in the Asia-Pacific region is on the line, and you know that when someone resorts to pulling out that line, which always kind of translates in context to "you have to do this stupid thing so that people will believe you when you go to do something else stupid," they are desperate.

What all this means, in sum, is that fast-track, again, is not dead and the fight isn't over - Is it ever? - but fast-track and by that means the entire Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, can be defeated. We can do this.

Sources cited in links:

UPDATE: As I expect you know, the House did have a re-vote on Thursday, June 18, again the day after I recorded the show dammit, on a fast-track bill that was decoupled from Trade Adjustment Assistance. It passed 218-208, essentially the same margin as before.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, where it remains to be seen if enough Senators are willing to sign off on fast-track authority with only the promise that adjustment assistance will be dealt with later as a separate bill. (Fast-track authority, including TAA, passed the Senate with just 62 votes, just two more than the minimum required to overcome a filibuster.)

More on this, obviously, next show.

Sources cited in Update:

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