Washington Post: Democrats Holding Obama’s Trade Deals Hostage

Huh. I didn’t expect to see this from the WP Editorial Board

A trade fail, courtesy of House Democrats

HERE IS the state of affairs on free trade after Friday’s dramatic votes in the House: President Obama wants trade-promotion authority, known as fast-track, from Congress to strengthen the hand of his negotiators working on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. A bipartisan majority of the Senate has already voted for fast-track authority. A bipartisan majority of the House is on record in favor of it as well. Yet none of this matters, because most House Democrats exploited an arcane point of procedure to cast fast-track authority into legislative limbo — with no clear means of escape.

This blow to the United States’ standing among its Pacific Rim allies, and to majority rule, is not the result of Mr. Obama’s allegedly high-handed personality, which, according to some reports, alienated Democrats in the final furious hours of lobbying. No one has had frostier dealings with the president than Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) or Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), yet they managed to put that aside for the sake of a shared goal: the passage of fast-track authority.

Obama showed up on Capital Hill to whip the Democrats, and told them that a vote against the bills was a vote against him. Democrat Keith Ellison noted on Twitter that “Now Obama wants to talk?” (and took a lot of heat over it from the liberal base), something Obama hadn’t bothered with previously. As usual. Obama typically likes to just lay down his position and expects everyone to Get In Line. Obama did note that he “alienated some folks“.

No, what we have here is a desperate, and somewhat cynical, maneuver by the opponents of fast-track authority, and it goes like this. Trade Adjustment Assistance is an aid program for workers displaced by imports; Democrats and their allies in organized labor have backed it for decades. It runs out in September, but in order to reassure Hill Democrats and attract votes for fast-track authority, Mr. Obama insisted on linking its passage to a bill reauthorizing (and expanding) the assistance program for six years. The Republicans agreed. However, once organized labor realized that it was not going to be able to deny the president a majority for fast-track authority, it began trying to stop that measure by pressuring House Democrats to kill the assistance program — and labor leaders succeeded, because a majority of Democrats, including, crucially, minority leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), went along.

That doesn’t really explain the whys, does it.

In short, the forces opposing fast-track authority turned a long-standing Democratic Party policy priority into a short-term political hostage. So what if the assistance program — intended to help workers displaced by trade regardless of whether the president’s new free-trade measures are ever passed — is now on course to expire in September? Apparently opponents despise free trade even more than they like helping its purported victims.

And boom, there it is. The Democrats are hostage takers, a phrase usually reserved for Republicans when they oppose Obama’s will. Hostage takers!

In fact, only 86 Republicans voted for TAA. And there are lots and lots of good reasons to vote against “Nay”. Down in the WP comments, on Democrats gives three

1. The bill was to pay for the retraining of American workers who lose their jobs because of TPP partly by cutting Medicare. Not something many Dems could support.
2. Many Dems consider the bill’s retraining budget grossly inadequate, considering the likely scope of the job loss TPP will produce.
3. Many Dems realized that this was their last, best chance to block the TPP, which they believe would be a disaster for American workers. That is the strong view of most labor leaders, who know whereof they speak; it’s their area of particular interest and expertise.

Republicans who voted no certainly saw this in a similar fashion, mostly about American workers losing their jobs. There are so many problems with these bills as pushed, starting with the fact that they have been kept secret for the 6 years Obama has been working on them, and We The People cannot read them unless they are passed, which breaks promises from Democrats, Republicans, and Obama.

Crossed at Right Wing News.

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One Response to “Washington Post: Democrats Holding Obama’s Trade Deals Hostage”

  1. Dana says:

    Without “fast track,” the President can still negotiate the trade bill, but the Congress is not prohibited from amending it after it is signed, in the approval process. Of course, other countries hate this, because that means that, after having negotiated with executive, and finally reached an agreement, Congress gets to step in and perhaps change things; the proper response for other countries is to say, “Screw you, the whole thing’s off.”

    But even if the President had been given “fast track” authority, the Congress could still have rejected the final agreement; they just wouldn’t have had the power to try to amend it. My objection is that we have moved away from the constitutional procedure, requiring ratification by a 2/3 supermajority in the Senate, to these idiotic “congressional-executive” agreements, requiring only a simple majority of both Houses of Congress. The original procedure guaranteed that treaties had bipartisan support; the current one does not.

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