Obama Lame Duck Watch: Pelosi Puts Another Nail in Toxic Trade Deal Coffin, Says She Opposes Giving Administration “Fast Track” Authority

Obama now has another hurdle to overcome if he is to get his toxic trade deals, the TransPacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, passed in time for him to take credit for handing the keys to America over to multinational corporations and turning out the lights.

As we’ve discussed in recent posts, these deals have perilously little to do with trade since trade is substantially liberalized. The “trade” branding of these deals serves as a Trojan horse. Their big effect would be to considerably strengthen intellectual property rights (benefitting the medical-industrial complex, technology companies and Hollywood) while substantially weakening national sovereignity by allowing foreign investors to sue governments for lost potential profits as a result of national laws and regulation, such as environmental, labor, or consumer protection.

Precisely because the content of these deals is so appalling, the Administration has conducted the negotiations in extraordinary secrecy. But as bits have leaked out (and the drafts of two critical chapters, one on intellectual property, the other on environmental regulations, were released by Wikileaks), normally complacent Congresscritters, both on the left and the right, have been increasingly objected to the substance of the deals as well as the process, that Congress in recent decades has allowed itself to be shut out of shaping these pacts by authorizing “fast track” authority, which allows the President to present Congress with the text it negotiated, for a simple up-down vote.

Opposition was already hardening among House Democrats, with over 100 Democrats signing a letter opposing fast track authority and House Republicans circulating their own letter. House Majority leader Boehner had already said he couldn’t pass the bill without bipartisan support. Then Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said flatly that he was against fast track and told the Administration to go to hell back off.

Today Nancy Pelosi has told a gathering of labor leaders that she’s opposed to fast track. This is a significant development since heretofore Pelosi has made much less forceful statements. From the Washington Post:

In an event with labor officials on Capitol Hill today, Pelosi delivered her strongest statement yet of opposition to the bill that would grant the Fast Track Authority sought by the administration to negotiate a sweeping free trade deal with a dozen Pacific countries. The bill — co-sponsored by Dem Senator Max Baucus and GOP Rep. Dave Camp — is strongly opposed by labor, liberal groups and many Congressional Dems.

“No on Fast Track — Camp-Baucus — out of the question,” Pelosi said, according to a transcript of her remarks forwarded to me by her office. She also told assembled steelworkers: “We cannot support Camp-Baucus. We cannot support Camp-Baucus.”

This marks a significant hardening of Pelosi’s opposition to the Fast Track Authority bill. It doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility that she could support some version of Fast Track at some point, if its terms are overhauled to deal with her concerns about job loss from currency manipulation, and to create much more transparency around negotiations and give Dems much more input into them. But it creates a hurdle to the free trade measure, because it will be difficult to meet the conditions for supporting Fast Track that Pelosi is now laying down.

Public Citizen, which has been relentlessly ferreting out information about trade deals and documenting their impact for years, deserves a great deal of credit, as do Democracy for America and CREDO, which have been lobbying Pelosi hard to take a stand against these pacts.

But even though this is another obstacle for Obama to overcome to get these deals done, Pelosi set down conditions that Obama might pretend to meet with artful concessions. So please, if you haven’t contacted Pelosi’s office before, please call or write to tell her you appreciate her tough stance but also to stress that the problem isn’t just secrecy, it’s the sweeping rights of the investor panels to gut national regulation, and the obscene strengthening of intellectual property rights that have to go too. And if you are in her district, please write or call your local paper. The Administration can still try to revive these pacts in the lame duck session, so it’s important to keep up the message that significant parts of the public understand what a massive corporate giveaway these “trade” deals are.

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  1. kimsarah

    Democrats will have a tough enough time having to run in support of Obamacare — whether it ends up being good or not. The GOP wordsmiths succeeded in making it at least somewhat toxic. Having to run on the real toxic Trans Obama Partnerships would only seal the fate of well-meaning Democrats. And it won’t be a good fate. Let’s identify which Republicans support the fast track.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Must read!

          One nit: it mentions Reid as against fasttrack. But Reid did not say that he was absolutely opposed, only that ‘those pushing’ for fasttrack should back off’ for now.

          1. Francois T

            “But Reid did not say that he was absolutely opposed”
            Apart from Yucca Mountain, I don’t reckon Reid ever saying an unequivocal “No!” to anything.

      1. Jackrabbit

        But this leadership kabuki is designed to prevent just that. Now fasttrack will be deemed to be not a campaign issue.

    1. Darwin

      I don’t think the Democrats have a hard time at all running on Obamacare. Warts and all it is far better than what there was before. Which for most people on Obama care was nothing.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Those aren’t warts you see on ObamneyCare (AKA: Insurance Racket Bailout); they’re malignant tumors.

    2. Jess

      “Well meaning Democrats”?

      Ain’t no such thing. Been extinct for at least past 15 years, if not longer.

      Repeat after me: ALL Democrats are lying neoliberal scum. And that includes your darling Liz, the multimillionaire former Republican who fulfills the “talks good/accomplishes nothing” role so essential to keeping up the illusion that the Dems give a shit about anybody except the oligarchs.

  2. Working Class Nero

    Free trade agreements are just the flip side to open borders amnesty agreements of the cheap labor coin so desired by our ruling oligarchs. So it seems pretty obvious some point after the 2014 elections there will be a compromise where Democrats reluctantly accept the free trade agreement side of the coin and in return the Republicans will sign on to open borders and decades more of cheap, malleable third world labor.

    The Democrats will have no problem with either of these policies since they hurt the hated white working class the most. But on the other hand they now have to pretend that they care about the free trade deal in order to set up the compromise on immigration later. The Republicans are a bit more complicated. Their big business billionaires (like the Brothers Koch) love cheap labor and wildly support any moves to achieve this aim such as open borders for labor and trade. But since the Left’s jihad against the white working class has driven many refugees into the Republican camps, more and more, dare I say, Marxist-style, class-based critiques have been appearing within right wing circles.

    So the Democrats are going to have to start laying it on thick on free trade for a while so that when a “bi-partisan” compromise on cheap labor appears in a year’s time the Republicans can at least attempt to appease their angry base with the idea that the Democrats had to give in on something as well. But the internal class contradictions within the Republican Party between Billionaires and working class whites are not going to make this an easy sell for them.

    1. JTFaraday

      I think you’re wrong to assume that the most obstreperous populist Republicans are the white “working class.” Take the Teahadists. Studies suggest that they are disproportionately petit bourgeois in comparison to the rest of the US population and they clearly have the sense that they are supposed to govern themselves, and have the right to do so.

      And govern themselves in Congress itself, not through the mediated role of labor bosses, to whom they have effectively transferred their political power.

      That doesn’t sound like “working class” to me.

      1. Cal

        “Women and Minorities strongly encouraged to apply.”

        Yeah, that only affects rich white boys, not the White Working Class male, whose labor participation rate is lower than ever.

      2. different clue

        If they decide to reject Obamatrade, might that embarrass any Democrats who are for it? Or would the Democrats seize on Tea Party rejection of Obamatrade to pass Fast Track because if Tea Partiers reject it, it must be good? Would Tea Party opposition be all the cover Democrats need to pass Fast Track?
        How much more pain and fear needs to be applied against the Democrats to make sure they don’t support Obamatrade because . . . Tea Parrty?

  3. Ulysses

    “But even though this is another obstacle for Obama to overcome to get these deals done, Pelosi set down conditions that Obama might pretend to meet with artful concessions.” This seems all too likely, or perhaps another scenario along the lines of the kayfabe maneuvers described by WorkingClassNero. At best, I think we’ve bought a little time to educate far more people about the extreme toxicity of TPP/TAFTA so they will not allow them to slide by with ease. Kudos again to NC for doing so much to expose this!

  4. JTFaraday

    “normally complacent Congresscritters, both on the left and the right, have been increasingly objected to the substance of the deals as well as the process”

    Well, the whole thing–the process and the substance of “the deal”–undermines the governing authority of Congress. Even if they have ZERO intentions of doing anything at all in the public interest, they should at least defend the power of the institution by refusing to pass this thing, ever.

    Even if all they want to do is continue to serve time collecting bribes like the slavish tin-pot proletarians they are, I imagine this thing significantly undercuts the need to pay the bribes in the first place.

    One hopes they don’t need to “pass the bill so they can find out what’s in it.” Does somebody need to wake them up?


    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Even if all they want to do is continue to serve time collecting bribes like the slavish tin-pot proletarians they are, I imagine this thing significantly undercuts the need to pay the bribes in the first place.

      I’ve wondered about that myself. A congress person could realistically feel: 1) Lots and lots of cash and then some more cash followed by a big pile of cash and I won’t worry about the future. or 2) (as you suggest) This is nuts, I’m cutting my own throat.

      The link you provide strongly strongly suggests #1 or a variant reminiscent of an old Sunday comic strip episode where the artist showed what war looked like before the warriors achieved the technological break through of letting go of the boulders after throwing them.

  5. Banger

    I think we are seeing major changes in the political arrangements in Washington that are a direct result of the collective disgust Americans feel about the Capitol city. I’m guessing that, despite the fact the left is moribund, that a new left is arising within the public that is made up of various fragments of ideas on both the left and right. We know the American people are tired of War being our number one collective endeavor. We also don’t like trade agreements anymore because we have, collectively, figured out that there are hidden costs to the Walmart-ization of society and we are no longer so amused.

    It is nice to see that when a large majority is against something that the oligarchs can no longer roll out their propaganda and we will comply. Pelosi is very astute politically and bases her opinion of what her caucus is telling her.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      I do hope you’re right, but Pelosi is a permanent member of said oligarchy and Reid an invertebrate wannabe. Whenever either of these incurable politicians (professional liars) profess anything resembling a resolute, principled position on anything at all, expect a head-fake.

      Reid, who only recently escaped losing his seat to a Palin-like xenophobe thanks to emergency investor intervention, will fold like a cheap tent in the slightest breeze from the Lost Wages casino cartel. Reid evinces all the moral fortitude of tidal kelp.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        This is really stunning. Pelosi and Reid have served Obama loyally for so long, and to see them oppose one of the few concrete calls from their party’s president is really out there. Despite myths about American independent voters, party discipline in the U.S. is a close second to the UK which is the gold standard, and it’s even closer once one accounts for the Southern Dems in the 80s.

      2. Banger

        All people in power today are either card-carrying members of the “Party” or at least are fellow travelers. The job of the politician is to balance real power and to take in consideration the condition of the public–since the public is very down on the political structure if that structure too often acts diametrically against the public interest such public might agitate for real reform. The anti-government meme is not simply a matter of Tea Party ideology but a reflection of genuine disgust at the actions of the Federal government in recent decades.

        1. Jackrabbit

          In a democracy, the people are sovereign and “the job of the politician” is to represent the PEOPLE that elected him or her.

          Clearly that’s not the way that politics works today because politicians serve contributors (“the money) rather than people.

          I doubt very much that the Tea Party wants to see ‘real democracy’ in America. As has been brought to light many times, they were created, and are funded by interests that are antithetical to democracy. What the Tea Party REALLY objects to is a Democratic Party establishment that perpetuates its electoral success by doling out government money to minorities and the needy via ‘entitlements’ that they feel that they have to pay for (via taxes).

          To Libertarians like yourself, Banger, the Tea Party is a wet dream. But the biggest welfare recipients are corporations and the wealthy. That’s why we use 4 times as much energy per capita as other developed nations, why we fund a huge military, why our healthcare costs twice as much as other developed countries, why our economy is financialized, etc. So wake me up when the Tea Party supports higher taxes on corporations and the super wealthy, by closing such giveaways as the carried interest deduction. (I’m not holding my breathe).

          1. Banger

            I think the Tea Party is too confused in their beliefs and attitudes to say much or anything about them other than most of them have a hard time with modernism and the federal government. I think much of the left is confused and moribund–if there’s anything to say about politics today is that it’s turned into some kind of cultural/tribal feud. I see no logic or clear-thinking anywhere in the body politic other than the oligarchs who are pretty clear what they want and that’s more for themselves and less for the rest of us. The current confusion serves them well.

      3. Paul P

        Yes, beware of the head fake: a new improved fast track bill, with some added words to provide the cover to pass it. No fast track of any kind. After over four years of secret negotiations, we need slow track.
        What scares me is how few people are aware of fast track, the TPP, the TTIP, and the meaning of free trade. The Battle of Seattle, notwithstanding, MSM has lobotomized the public. The Super Bowl and Jimmy Fallon’s succession to the Tonight Show, now that’s news.

        1. Banger

          I think the role of the mainstream is to lie and misdirect but increasing numbers of people I talk to don’t trust it other than provide pretty good weather forcasts, celebrity gossip and sports scores. The system is crippled at all levels and more people are realizing that fact.

  6. Timothy Gawne

    Remember in 2008 when Obama was simultaneously promising to renegotiate NAFTA, while in private assuring his wealthy patrons that he didn’t mean a word of it?

    One never knows in advance, but Pelosi may be ‘pulling an Obama’ and saying one thing while planning on doing quite another. As you suggest, perhaps Obama could offer some utterly meaningless concessions as political cover.

    As mainstream journalists used to say before they got bought out, “look at the record, look at the record, look at the record”. I’ll believe that Pelosi and her mock-progressive allies have changed their stripes only when I see tangible evidence.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Nailed it, Timothy…unfortunately. So I take it you’re not a member of the Hope and Change congregation?

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      This is a direct challenge, and Pelosi is not over her head. She knows betrayal mixed with current Dem approval will result in a bloodbath. She wants a place in history, and right now, her record is loyal opposition, some minor victories as speaker when dubya was still there, and bag carrier for Obama who has played every dirty emotional trick possible to stay as popular as he is. The Democrats despite demographic advantages have become a joke under her stewardship.

      Right now, any review of leadership will show her as a corporate hack wedded to the feckless Reid. The glory of being a female speaker has passed. I don’t believe she has changed her stripes, but a bloodbath in november won’t go over well.

      1. different clue

        If enough people told her that they consider her most important political achievement so far to be her “Impeachment is off the table” Ford-pardons-Nixon moment, and that her only hope for historical redemption is the outright prevention (as in eventual voting DOWN of Fast Track); could she be motivated to keep Fast Track delayed until it could be deNIED?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          By no means am I suggesting we should praise Pelosi or Reid (I wont for any Democrat who isn’t opposed to their leadership status). The only course is to increase the pressure. These people aren’t allies.

          Its important to point out Pelosi is a loser much like Reid. Her positive accomplishments amount to minor legislation which wouldn’t bring a Bush veto. After that, she has corporate giveaways and leading the Democrats to a position where they can lose both houses to the clowns in the GOP.

          1. different clue

            We should probably at least preTEND to thank them, though. Tell them how grateful we are so far that Fast Track is delayed, and if we see Fast Track buried throughout the Lame Duck session . . . or even better, voted DOWN, we will be so grateful as to vote for anti-Fast Track Democrats in the 2016 election.
            But IFF! the Fast Track is perma-tabled or voted DOWN. It won’t be enough to pretend to oppose it and then let it pass.

  7. Jackrabbit

    As Yves notes, Reid said that the Administration should push for fasttrack now. Now Pelosi seems to have done much the same, nominally saying “No” but “set[ing] down conditions that Obama might pretend to meet with artful concessions.”

    I think we’ve seen enough from Obama, and politics generally, to recognize that this is kabuki. This weak opposition (Reid: not now! / Pelosi: maybe) is meant to forestall the issue until after the elections. They hope to prevent activists from targeting Congresspeople that are for, or (better) not specifically against, Obamatrade.

  8. TomDority

    I have mixed feelings about Pelosi and, I commend the hundred or so signatures in support of disabling fast-track for TPP and TaTIP. However, I would rather see them withdraw any support or hope of passage of the TPP and TaTip given it’s undemocratic secrecy with no real Constitutional headwind of due process. If congress can not avail themselves of full knowledge of the entirety of the ‘contracts’ and weigh, with diligence, the impact upon the public good….they will have abdicated their sworn duties and should be held accountable. Further, all contracts should be at arms length, i think an argument can be made that basically says, corporations should step out of the negotiations because they do not have standing. The interests are the Constituted representatives and/of the American People. The corporate interests are only economic. Our legislature can not make laws that will knowingly repeal other statutes without the due process of direct repeal. The other laws, thus mooted, must be heard in an open forum.
    In these ‘negotiations’ the public (the public can not include private business entities) and their representatives must have complete information on these documents because they both have standing. And, if the critters we elected would prefer to shirk their responsibilities in office and violate their own sworn oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, they would show themselves as unfit to serve in office. Further, they will have perjured themselves upon their own sworn, given without duress sworn oaths. This would be real perjury – the high crimes and misdemeanors that get your ass kicked out.

  9. different clue

    Pressure has forced key Democratic officeholders to say not yet and maybe but not yet on Fast Track. Perhaps more pressure can force them to extend the not-yet timeline further into the future.
    Perhaps such extension can buy time to grow building pressure to the point where the Democrats are forced to join willing Tea Party Republicans in having the vote and voting Fast Track down.
    If the Democratic Leaders are merely instructing Obama to delay Fast Track till the Lame Duck session with secret promises or signals that they will pass it during Lame Duck, would any people feel so betrayed by that that they would devote their political spare-time to getting revenge on the Democratic Party by exterminating it? If any people are really ready to pursue that goal, when would be the best time for them to write all the relevant officeholders about their intent to get revenge for a Lame Duck session passage of Fast Track?

    1. different clue

      Perhaps when Campaign 2014 visibly begins, people could tell every Democrat seeking or re-seeking office that if Fast Track passes during the Lame Duck Session, that they will vote against every Democratic office seeker/ re-seeker in every election ever after. Perhaps that
      would get the election season candidates to pressure the allready-in-office officeholders to at least not allow Fast Track to come up for a vote during Lame Duck?

    2. Jackrabbit

      The pressure has to be of the ‘kick ass and take names’ type.

      And everyone should recognize that Obama is NOT a lame duck because he is merely a front for a group of interests that seek to impoverish/enslave our children and grandchildren, overturn popular sovereignty, and extend hegemonic control (before the growing effects of global warming spur real protest and civil unrest.)

      If you start from the premise that very few in power today deserve our trust, you are on the right track.

      1. Jackrabbit

        ‘Lame Duck’ usually refers to a president’s power to implement policy changes and/or pass legislation. While technically he may be a ‘lame duck’ after the 2014 elections, I’d bet that his power will be much stronger in his last two years than most Presidents before him because the interests that his Administration caters to will continue to have strong influence in Washington.

        No one should let their guard down when Obama officially or unofficially becomes a ‘lame duck’.

      2. different clue

        I was thinking of the Lame Duck Congress. The session which Congress holds after the election is held but before the new Congressfolk are sworn in is called the Lame Duck session. That was the Lame Duck I was referring to. Sorry for my lack of clarity. I agree that Obama is not a Lame Duck. Obama is Dr. Frankenstein’s little Igor.

      3. Jackrabbit

        @differentclue I think I need to provide some clarification also

        Impoverish/enslave seems harsh. Doesn’t the world already have much poverty? Why am I insinuating such dark intent to TPTB? No doubt it is hard to believe that such a future could be intended. People today generally trust TPTB and admire the wealthy, believing that ‘checks and balances’ generally work and that those with money are generally deserving and have no reason to be nasty (as they have a comfortable life for themselves).

        Obamatrade changes the game. It would take the nightmare of predatory capitalism and the NSA to a whole new level. How should one describe a world where corporations would (essentially) be sovereign and most jobs (when you can find one) are minimum wage?

        1. different clue

          How should one describe such a world? The world Obama wants and works towards. The world his patrons and sponsors put him into office to achieve.

  10. Thomas Lord

    I don’t think this is clearly a “lame duck” issue. The administration’s foreign policy goals are advanced by appearing to push hard for the treaty. It’s domestic goals are advanced by losing the fight for the treaty at home.

    1. different clue

      Oh no. I beg strongliest to disagree. Obama is pushing very hard for the private payouts he intends to collect after office from the grateful Overclass recipients of the benefits of Obamatrade. We have to deny him those payouts, if we can.

  11. President Costanza

    Have to give credit to the grassroots and a few good bloggers like Yves for this one. The media blackout regarding TPP has been remarkable, considering it is arguably the most far reaching piece legislation currently before Congress (though not surprising as big media desperately want the intellectual property provisions to pass and knows that the more the public knows about the less likely it is to pass.).

    I know that members of Congress have been getting massive calls regarding this issue, because when I called my Congressman’s office to voice disapproval the staffer on the phone immediately said “he’s completely against it” before I could even finish the word partnership.

    Any Democrat who votes for TPP or fast-tracking must face a vigorous primary or be defeated in the general. I would even strongly consider voting for anti-TPP tea party Republican before voting for a pro-TPP Democrat like Baucus.

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