by Lori Wallach, Common Dreams, 2/4/14
Corporate interests were fiercely lobbying for President Obama to dedicate serious time in this State of the Union speech to pushing fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in order to try to overcome growing congressional and public opposition to both, but instead he made only a brief passing reference.
No doubt one explanation is that there is no upside to generating public debate: Poll after poll shows that Democrats, GOP and Independents oppose TPP and fast track. With almost no House Democratic support for fast track, a bloc of GOP “no” votes and public opposition making congressional phones ring off the hook, we can expect much of the president’s push for fast track to occur under the radar.
But also the White House had come under considerable pressure from congressional Democrats and base groups not to raise these issues, given the stark conflict with the main theme of Obama’s speech. Implementing TPP – a NAFTA-on-steroids with 11 nations – would undermine Obama’s efforts to battle income inequality.
The day after the speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made public his opposition to fast track, sending an important signal to Democrats that preserving Congress’ constitutional trade authority is the right thing to do even when a Democratic is in the White House. And, his statement helped solidify the sense among U.S. TPP negotiating partners that the administration’s blithe promises that fast track was easy and forthcoming may not be quite accurate.
But the major fight over fast track is in the House. Fast track is a revenue measure and thus must start in the House. The GOP leaders are seeking the needed bloc of Democratic votes to ensure passage of the Rep. Dave Camp-Sen. Max Baucus fast track bill introduced two weeks ago.
That bill went in without a single House sponsor, but the corporate and White House pressure campaign is gearing up. Their goal is to find 40-50 Democrats votes to combine with GOP support. GOP votes alone cannot pass fast track because tea party opposition to fast track is peeling away some GOP votes. Bottom line: our goal is to ensure the House GOP leadership can never count anything close to 217 votes.
A letter released last week signed by a stunning array of more than 550 Democratic base organizations reiterates the perverse situation….
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chart from Lori Wallach, “Studies Reveal Consensus: Trade Flows during “Free Trade” Era Have Exacerbated U.S. Income Inequality,” Common Dreams, 1/28/14: