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Plan B: Ditch Help For Workers, Just Get Corporations What They Want

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) have hatched a plan to muscle through Fast Track for President Obama. But there is no guarantee their plan will work.

As a new GOP-led approach to approving Fast Track authority on behalf of the Obama administration materializes, the process itself signals just how noxious the contents of deals like the TPP must be

By Jon Queally

Legislative maneuvering around Trade Promotion Authority (TPA or Fast Track) continued late Tuesday, as GOP leaders in Congress, the Obama administration, and a handful of anti-democracy Democrats hatched a plan to hold a straight vote on Fast Track—handing the White House the authority it wants to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership and other pending corporate-friendly agreements—while separating out a provision offering assistance to workers displaced by future trade deals.

It’s not a simple or guaranteed path forward for Fast Track, but Politico explained the GOP leadership’s latest approach this way:

Under the emerging plan, the House would vote on a bill that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim countries, sending it to the Senate for final approval. To alleviate Democratic concerns, the Senate then would amend a separate bill on trade preferences to include Trade Adjustment Assistance, a worker aid program that Republicans oppose but that House Democrats have blocked to gain leverage in the negotiations over fast-track.

The leaders’ behind-the-scenes machinations are an attempt to allow both bills — TAA and the fast-track measure known as Trade Promotion Authority — to move to Obama’s desk separately, sidestepping the objections of House Democrats that stalled the package last week. The idea, which has been discussed among top congressional leaders and the White House, would be tantamount to a dare to pro-trade Democrats in both chambers to vote it down.

The plans are fluid and could change. But multiple congressional leaders, speaking anonymously to candidly describe their strategy, said they felt this was the only hope to reverse the trade package’s flagging fortunes.

The big question in the House remains how many of the 28 House Democrats who voted for Fast Track when the worker assistance program, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), was on the table would do so now that it’s been taken off. But even if the GOP-controlled House does pass a clean Fast Track bill, the path in the Senate is not likely to be smooth sailing. As The Hill notes, when the Senate approved Fast Track it included “both programs, and the support from 14 Democrats in the upper chamber hinged in part on that fact.”

And according to the Huffington Post:

As rumors swirled about Boehner being ready to move forward with a stand-alone TPA bill, House Democrats called for an emergency caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, where pro-TPA Democrats were expected to try to garner support for the Republican strategy. That meeting was abruptly canceled late Tuesday, after the House Rules Committee opted not to line up a floor vote on a clean fast-track bill. A committee aide said the panel had no plans to meet again this week to take up TPA.

Despite the committee’s punt on Tuesday, House Republican leaders appear ready to push through a clean TPA bill. Their latest strategy, according to Democratic and Republican aides, is to pass the clean bill and send it to the Senate, where lawmakers would then attach TAA to a separate trade bill for African countries, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The strategy behind that approach would be to convince members of the Congressional Black Caucus to support TAA this time around, since the controversial funding would then be tied to AGOA.

If House Republicans do pursue a stand-alone TPA bill, it won’t necessarily make matters better for the president’s agenda. Passing a clean bill would be far more difficult in the Senate. Obama has vowed to veto a fast-track bill unless TAA is also passed or attached, and passing a clean bill would be far more difficult in the Senate.

Sen. McConnell, President Obama, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have been discussing their options since the defeat last Friday, but it was McConnell on Tuesday who expressed the most optimism that Fast Track could still become law in the coming weeks.

“The Speaker and I have spoken with the president about the way forward on trade,” McConnell told reporters. “It’s still my hope that we can achieve what we’ve set out to achieve together, which is to get a six-year trade promotion authority bill in place that will advantage the next occupant of the White House as well as this one.”

Critics of both the TPP and Fast Track point out that machinations necessary to get them passed through Congress bodes poorly for the contents of the corporate-friendly agreements themselves. As David Morris, executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argued in a piece at Common Dreams on Tuesday, the whole process stinks of an anti-democratic culture in which the contents of so-called “free trade” deals are being actively kept secret from the people—even as lawmakers jump through procedural hoop after procedural hoop in order for multinational corporations to get what they want. Moving forward, hope opponents, Congress should consider how the process has eclipsed substantive debate over the trade agenda’s wide-ranging implications for public health, the environment, and workers’ rights. According to Morris:

We the people would like it to be as transparent and democratic as possible. Public opinion consistently favors trade but just as consistently solidly opposes fast track. We oppose the remarkable, indeed unprecedented secrecy in which the trade pact has been drafted and the inability of the average citizen, unlike giant corporations, to play a part in that drafting. We condemn the prohibition against changing the document in any way after submission.

And perhaps most of all we are furious about fast track’s foreclosure of extensive and intensive debate on a complex document of far reaching consequence.

Morris noted that the existing system ostensibly allows for such debate, explaining that Obama, as president, can always submit a trade agreement—which historically were considered treaties and required approval of the Senate for passage. “If fast track fails the President can still submit a trade bill,” Morris explained. “And we can then launch a much needed and long overdue national conversation about the benefits and limitations of trade and the dangers of ceding sovereignty to a new international constitution whose goal is to limit democracy and expand corpocracy.”

Though the White House, according to the Huffington Post, has been “coy about what efforts are being made behind the scenes to get the trade package passed,” previous reporting by Common Dreams makes it clear that the political “arm-twisting” is happening at the highest levels.

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  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    The EFF sent out this action alert… House Vote on TPP Fast Track Is Tomorrow. Call Now.

  • Alice X

    Their plan is to wear us down. And out.

    Historically called a Treaty. As in the Constitution when 2/3 of the Senate would be needed to approve.

    When is a Treaty not a Treaty? When they call it a trade deal.

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    Fortunately, many of Rahmbo’s minions of the DLC have already been kicked to curb, but, we need to let the remaining Dims know that we’ll hold their feet to the fire for their treacherous vote…!

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    Hot off The Hill presses… Obama, GOP revive fast-track bill

    A ton of arm-twisting going on…! *gah*

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Even if it passes it won’t succeed like the MOTU envision. They strong armed Iceland and then Greece. Intl Oligarch Banking Cartels will fail bit by bit. Really was there ever a doubt that the bought and paid for uniparty would do what their masters tell them. Boehner-McConnel-Obama is all you need to know about the uniparty. Axis of Evil but really just minions of evil.

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    Speaking of Greece, bs…!

    https://youtu.be/uYvek-13pmk

  • bsbafflesbrains

    My hope is Tspiras was always going to Grexit but wants to make it look like he did everything possible beforehand. He has.

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    I should add that it’ll be the Hedge Funds that will get the long overdue shearing…!
    Hedge funds increase bets on European M&A as Greek end-game nears

    The only burning question of a Grexit, is whether it’ll trigger a derivatives avalanche…? 8-(

  • Chris Maukonen

    There simply are not enough four letter words to describe congress and the White House now.

  • Chris Maukonen

    We can only hope.

  • Chris Maukonen

    The ultimate irony, world economy collapses as Obama leaves office.

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    Some ‘Legacy,’ eh…? 😉

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    They’re rallying behind Tspiras…

    Greeks rally against austerity ahead of bailout talks

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Wonder who we will rally behind as austerity keeps the trickle up flowing?

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    I do plan on caucusing for Bernie here in the Isles, bs…! 😉

  • Chris Maukonen

    Wonders too how much support there will be for the MOTU countries if they decide to anger Russia and it’s allies.

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Good plan and still not convinced of his motives but Hillary, as in 2008, has opposite of charisma and the more she campaigns the more Bernie supporters might catch fire. If he is on ballot in CA and still in race I will vote for him but Green Party and the Green New Deal is our future IMO. Just like the New Deal it will be an emergency situation for labor economy with the added crisis of climate change.

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Good point. Motu are practiced experts at taking advantage of weaker people but have no sensible policy about Russia, China and Brics in general.

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    *heh* From the Politico… Hillary feels the #Bern

  • Bluedot

    There is actually a small majority who want the government to accept the troika’s demands. (as per NC post from Bloomberg)

  • Bluedot

    Bernie a serious candidate? Nice!

  • Zak Browne

    Obama is lying that he will veto the the bill without the TAA. If the TPA passes without TAA he will sign it, because he knows very well there is no other way this pile of steaming shit is going to pass. As usual he is lying. I am sure he saying trust me, trust me… We’ve seen this happen with him before, he is a lying turd.

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Lift the veil from my eyes.

    Obama has gone from crytpo Republican faux populist to full on Bull Elephant. He is caucusing with the Republicans. Absolutely sees his own party as the “enemy” to his “legacy”.

    Good luck in 2016 Donkeys. Schadenfruede. Right up your wazoo mulp!

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Obamatrade. None dare call it by its true name.

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    The passage of Obamatrade will be the nail in Hillary’s coffin once the contents are spewed forth after it is passed

  • Alice X

    In rhetoric one needs to have a panoramic of the bias that is engendered.

    Obamatrade works for me. I have suggested SlaveTrade™. I have used Obama/ReptileTrade.

    Maybe ObamaSlaveTradeBill? I don’t know. I spend an inordinate amount of time on this stuff and it is still not enough.

    I want to hit the most nails without causing even more to rise up.

  • Tremolux

    That the rabid opposition is gung-ho for the deal and the President’s own party is up in arms and revolting against it tells you just how bad the deal is.

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    I have been calling it Obamatrade to remind people of the last corporate fuckup called Obamacare.

    A Republican piece of legislation wrapped in a populist coating.

    Obamacare: Enriches the corporations at the expense of consumers. Implemented beyond ineptly by the Peace Prize Clown College

    Obamatrade will be just as venal, corrupt and ineptly implemented

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Bush had his Axis of Evil. Is this troika the Axis of Lesser of Two Evils?

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Lied on Medicare for All. Lied on the Bushama Tax cuts. This will be a lie too. The man is beyond contemptible

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon
  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Hillary has scripted and staged events. Bernie’s events are to overflow capacity.

    It will be tragic when his plane crashes on the way to his first debate with Her Majesty and Who’malley

  • Alice X

    I am completely in agreement on Obamacare. It was and is bailout of Big Pharma etc in the mold off but not quite on the scale of the Bankster bailouts.

    TPP, TTIP and TiSA are on an even greater scale.

    Vast.

    The Obots and Dbots are only vaguely starting to get it. But only slightly. The Hillbots are yet to even have an inkling.

    We have a Corporatocracy and this new troika of trade deals will be like the previous trade deals, only even more so.

    Perhap’s we should agree that we are agreed and move the conversation to the latest travesty.

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Was it 28 Dems who voted for it? How many were cattle prodded to vote for it this time?

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon