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Dems torpedo Obama campaign promise, block debate on trade (Updated)

Dems torpedo Obama campaign promise, block debate on trade (Updated)

The Party of Obstruction does it again

Whoever would have guessed that trade policy could turn into the US Senate’s latest stumbling block?

Yesterday, Senate Democrats voted to block the start of debate on a bipartisan bill that would renew and broaden the President’s negotiating authority over international trade agreements. The bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority renewal legislation was introduced back in mid-April by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). If passed, it would give the President authority to negotiate trade deals that would then be sent off to Congress for either rejection or approval. Because the TPA legislation would not permit Congressional amendments to the deals, the update is seen as a “fast track” option.

If passed, the TPA could be used to fast-track approval (or rejection) of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; the Partnership would include 11 other nations (both developed and developing), and stands to affect up to 40% of all US imports and exports if approved.

The block isn’t the end of the TPA renewal, but it represents a divide in the caucus, and the willingness of Democrat leadership to go against the agenda promoted by the White House.

A Senate 60-vote supermajority was required to begin debate on renewing trade promotion authority, but even pro-trade Democrats held back their support in an effort intended to boost their leverage to secure commitments on legislation that would enhance worker protections and crack down on currency manipulation.

The vote to begin debate failed, 52-45. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans.

The White House downplayed the setback. “It is not unprecedented — to say the least — for the United States Senate to encounter procedural snafus,” said press secretary Josh Earnest prior to the vote as defeat looked likely.

As is almost always the case with these types of filibusters, broad Democratic support of the TPA could hinge on Republican support for a series of additional trade agreements:

But several Democrats say they will back fast track only if Republican leaders clear a path for three other trade measures. One, to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act, is uncontroversial.

The second calls for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides federal aid to workers displaced by trade agreements. Republicans don’t like it, but reluctantly acknowledge it’s the price for winning even modest Democratic support.

The third bill, involving Customs enforcement, is the stickiest. It includes a measure to take actions against countries that keep their currency artificially low, which makes their exports more attractive. The Obama administration opposes the “currency manipulation” measure, saying it could invite international challenges to the Federal Reserve’s policies meant to boost the economy.

Some Democrats also want to force Republicans to deal first with a surveillance measure that Democrats consider more pressing. That strategy suggests Obama might have better luck on trade in a month or so.

The issue is bipartisan, but opposition is political. The White House wants this deal because it would allow the president the opportunity to sweeten perception of his final term; Democrats are afraid of it because labor unions have been lobbying furiously against anything that could broaden opportunities overseas and affect US jobs.

Love or hate the idea of a fast track on trade agreements, it has to warm your heart to see Obama’s own caucus throwing his agenda under the bus in favor of a blatantly political nod to destructive special interests.

UPDATE: Apparently we have a deal.

Via Politico Breaking News:

Senate leaders have reached a deal to move forward with fast-track trade legislation, a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s economic agenda. The agreement calls for separate votes on several Democratic priorities, including a bill to help U.S. workers affected by expanded trade. The deal follows 24 hours of furious negotiating after the trade package failed in the Senate on Tuesday.


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First, I’m a free market purist.

Second, it makes me ill to hear radio adds on conservative radio stations extolling the wonders of the EX-IM bank.

Third, any idiot who WOULD DREAM of voting for a “trade bill” that is literally kept under lock and key deserves to be tarred and feathered…for a start.

Get the assholes of the Chamber of Commerce into their nice, quiet corner of the GOP, and let them know they don’t run the nation, the party, or the economy. We will tolerate them in THAT position.

    Estragon in reply to Ragspierre. | May 13, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Which trade bills have been negotiated in the public eye in the past? I don’t recall a single one. Because it simply cannot work that way. They are ALL “locked away in secret” until they are finished.

    Once the agreement is finalized and signed by all the parties, its provisions will be public and Congress will vote, up or down. As we’ve done with all trade agreements since the labor unions decided to try to sabotage them all.

    The complaint about secrecy is from the unions and environmentalists on the left. Only our lunatic fringe is joining them.

Henry Hawkins | May 13, 2015 at 5:08 pm

$5 says there are a few little clauses somewhere in this bill that (1) help more illegals into the country, and (2) do something to hurt import/export of firearms. See, after the bill is passed, THEN we can read it. We’re just the people, after all.

    Estragon in reply to Henry Hawkins. | May 13, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Try not to be so ignorant. The details of all trade negotiations are secret while they are in the process. That’s not what this vote is about at all.

    This is a vote on the same fast-track authority to submit the final product for an up or down vote, as we’ve given all recent Presidents.

I am vehemently opposed to any legislation that gives Obama more power than he has today. It may take longer and it may be messier but Congress does have a role to play other than giving Barack a thumbs up or thumbs down.

    Estragon in reply to Sanddog. | May 13, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    If you are anti-trade, just say so. Join the union of your choice, carry a sign, break some knees.

    But without fast track, there are no trade deals, period. These negotiations were begun under Bush ten years ago. If the final product is bad, lobby against that, not against fast track.

      Voyager in reply to Estragon. | May 15, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Dude, did you miss the last seven years of this administration?

      If he is trying to get something it is because he plans to do something illegal with it.

      It is one thing to put your money in a bank that doesn’t tell you where it goes; it is an entirely different thing to hand it over to a con artist who merely claims to be running bank.

I completely agree with all these comments. If this bill were really good for the country it wouldn’t be secret and Obama wouldn’t be for it. It really is just that simple. The fact that the GOP sells out its base and the people yet again boggles the mind.

I posted about this earlier today.

Secret legislation? Why?