On Tuesday, a bill designed to confer trade promotion authority on President Obama, known as “fast-track,” will come before the Senate. Obama and his administration have been working overtime to convince recalcitrant Democrats loyal to labor unions not to abandon him in the House and Senate and work with the GOP to defeat the bill. Obama even has given lawmakers rides on Air Force One to convince them.
The bill would allow Obama to negotiate and sign trade agreements without Congressional oversight. Congress would get only 90 days to ready itself for a yea or nay vote, and could not amend any deal or filibuster it — although if a trade accord displeases Congress, it could revoke the president’s authority, and then amend the deal.
Citizen.org writes that the bill would:
Empower the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for a trade pact, determine an agreement’s contents through the negotiating process, and then sign and enter into an agreement – all before Congress voted to approve a trade pact’s contents, regardless of whether a pact met Congress’ negotiating objectives;
Authorize the executive branch to write legislation containing any terms the White House decides are “necessary or appropriate” to implement the pact. Such legislation would not be subject to normal congressional committee review and markup, meaning this and future administrations could include in a Fast-Tracked trade bill whatever terms it desired.
Opponents of the legislation include those who worry about restrictive controls over the Internet, who point out that Internet and copyright provisions would be written in small print and would likely be overlooked; labor unions, which worry that the bill would trigger more trade deals that would push down American wages and send more jobs overseas, and free speech advocates, who are concerned about change to intellectual property laws.
Organizations usually zealous in their support of Obama are against him on this issue, including the AFL-CIO, the ACLU, and MoveOn.org.
Currently the United States Trade Rep is negotiating two agreements, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would involve 11 nations around the Pacific Rim, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The TPP has been lauded by Obama as “the most progressive trade agreement in history.”
Obama invited Ami Bera of California for two rides on Air Force One before he capitulated and supported Obama. Obama also has been making phone calls and meeting one-on-one with various lawmakers. He recently offered to personally campaign for any Democrat who supports him against a challenger in a primary.
Obama has to contend with the fact that he campaigned for president slamming trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Even Obama supporter Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, blurted out, “I understand the president’s desire to pull these countries away from China’s orb here, but I feel middle-class income decline is the greatest problem Americans face, and trade agreements exacerbate that decline.”