Fast Track Authority for Toxic Trade Deals Fails Key Vote in Senate

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I was out at lunch, something I rarely do, when the news on the Fast Track came over the screen in the restaurant. The Senate gave Obama a decisive defeat by refusing to let fast track authority for the TPP and other pending trade deals advance to the stage of being debated.

Thanks to all for your calls, e-mails and letters to Senators, Representatives, and local media. This is one of those rare cases where the process worked.

From Reuters:

Legislation giving U.S. President Barack Obama authority to speed trade deals through Congress failed a crucial procedural test on Tuesday, delaying a measure that may be key to President Barack Obama’s diplomatic pivot to Asia.

In a setback to the White House trade agenda, the Senate voted 52-45 – eight votes short of the necessary 60 – to clear the way for debate on the legislation, which would allow a quick decision on granting the president so-called fast track authority to move trade deals quickly through Congress.

The vote marked a big victory for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, an outspoken opponent of fast-track.

The failure to garner the necessary votes came after key pro-trade Democrats, including Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, announced they would vote no on the procedural vote because the measure lacked some trade protections.

Bloomberg bizarrely has the heading for its Fast Track article, on its main page, in red, “Last Minute Rebellion”. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that most Democrat Congressmen opposed the deal; Obama has been trying to win over enough to give Republicans air cover so that they can claim these traitorous deals are “bipartisan”. From the story:

Senate Democrats staged a last-minute rebellion against one of President Barack Obama’s top legislative priorities by blocking a test vote on a trade measure that didn’t include companion measures they sought.

The vote, 52-45, effectively delays fast-track legislation Obama wants to expedite approval of trade accords. Supporters needed 60 votes to advance the bill to a final vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Democrats’ opposition was “pretty shocking” and vowed to keep working to reach an agreement he could bring back for a vote later.

Obama had sought the trade-promotion authority legislation to help him close a 12-nation deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership and submit it to Congress for approval without amendments. Obama scratched for every Democratic vote, but after weeks of meetings, telephone calls and personal appeals, the fiercest opponents remained within his party.

Note that the subtext is that Obama might find a way to surmount this procedural hurdle. However, eight votes is a large margin to overcome, particularly since Obama has been making a full court press. Moreover, the stance of many of the opponents is entirely reasonable: show us the bill. And Obama knows it will not withstand scrutiny.

Notice how Roll Call discussed the vote in a story posted shortly before the vote:

The White House is brushing off what is now expected to be the imminent filibuster of President Barack Obama’s fast-track bill on the Senate floor, with Press Secretary Josh Earnest blaming a “procedural SNAFU” for Democrats planning to vote en masse to block it.

The expected vote could deal a devastating blow to Obama’s ambitious trade agenda, and amounts to perhaps the biggest rebuke of this president by his own party.

But Earnest said Tuesday the president will continue to try and push fast-track authority through the Senate even after pro-trade Senate Democrats indicated they wouldn’t back the bill unless several bills — including one on currency enforcement — would move forward.

Thus I would not be surprised if we see another effort to get Fast Track passed, particularly since some Senators like Ron Wyden have made is clear they are amendable to a deal. However, such a visible defeat is a big boost to the opponents. Thus while a win has not been secured, it looks increasingly likely.

Obama has already resorted to shameless lies to try to rally support for the bill. It will be instructive to see what he tries next.

I looked for the roll call on the Senate’s site and do not see it up yet. I’m told it was a straight line vote, with the exception of Tom Carper of Delaware, who voted for Fast Track authorization.

Please call your Senators and Representatives, and tell them that this vote today was proof of deep seated opposition to both the President’s refusal to allow proper review of such important legislation and how dangerous they are to American citizens from what we can infer from the sections that have been leaked. This fight is not over till it is over, and it is important to keep pressing after gaining ground.

Update: I spoke to a Congressional source who said, “This is really bad for Obama” with considerable glee.

The Administration had a ministerial meeting set for the end of the month for TPP with the hope of resolving open issues. The other countries were not willing to make their offer until the Americans had secured Fast Track, so this is an embarrassment internationally and wrecks the planned timetable. Some Senators had been willing to approve Fast Track if the Senate would also pass an amendment that closed a loophole in existing legislation that allowed goods to be imported that used child or forced labor. Another part of a deal that the Senators had wanted was much tougher requirements on designating foreign countries as currency manipulators. Apparently, what happened today was that the Administration tried getting a vote on Fast Track only, and the Senators that were willing to go along if they got the child labor and currency manipulator protections passed rebelled.

The contact said that this development was bad for Obama on every axis. While the Administration could in theory revive the deal by giving in on the child labor and currency manipulator issue, Obama may actually not be willing to concede this point. This finally marks a big victory for Elizabeth Warren, who was the most visible face of this campaign and who the Administration attacked personally.

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  1. Jess

    The first battle in a long war. (Or second battle if you consider the Senate committee vote to be the first big hurdle.)

  2. Vatch

    In February we had a victory on Net Neutrality, and now a victory against Trade Promotion Authority (fast track). It feels good to win once in a while!

  3. NotTimothyGeithner

    The child labor issue is probably about existing issues with how products are made.

    Obama is petty. I suspect him to double down, but I wonder how many GOP senators will balk without being able to blame Team Blue. The GOP didn’t face repercussions in 94 when it became a Clinton led venture despite 100% of the then GOP voting for NAFTA. A couple of reps flipped to the GOP afterwards.

    The pressure needs to be on Hillary.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Boehner has made it very clear he wants Democratic party votes in the House. He’s not willing to table this if it’s going to break on party lines as it just did in the Senate.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        I think that’s right! Boehner knows a party line vote means that, in 2016, Republicans alone would bear the blame for passage of this terrible deal for the US. Also, the Democratic presidential candidate could run on this with a clear differentiation from Republicans provided of course that she or he is willing to repudiate deals like the TPP. Her/his credibility would be enhanced on this issue if she/he were to announce their opposition to Fast Track and TPP right now, if they’re have not already done so!

        1. Lambert Strether

          There’s some sort of parliamentary machination going on — amazing but true! — that I don’t understand.

          But with most Democrats now demanding that all four trade bills — fast-track, TAA, a customs enforcement bill and a package of trade preferences for African countries — move in a single package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have trouble rounding up enough votes.

          Not sure how or why McConnell allowed that package to happen, especially since if it was the result of deal-making, it didn’t buy today’s vote.

          Could it be that McConnell doesn’t want the bill to pass either — I don’t think his base is for it either — but wants the Democrats to take the blame for it?

          1. Cugel

            No candidate in 2016 is going to care what Obama thinks about a trade deal, any more than Democrats today care what Bill Clinton thinks about it. Obama is already a lame duck president, and everybody in 2016 is going to be looking forward. So, if he doesn’t get fast track soon this is dead for his entire presidency. The reason he so desperately wanted fast track is that the longer this deal is debated, the worse the chances of passage become, since more people will find out about how horrible it is.

            Even if Hillary will support this deal if she becomes President, it seems wildly unlikely she would take on the base of her own party to support it now. It would make far more sense for her to quietly assure the billionaires that she will move it through Congress in 2017 if she’s elected. She’s likely to have a majority Republican Congress even in the Senate, or at best 50-50, so she’d only need to pick up a few corporate whores among the Democrats to move the bill then since every GOP dirt-bag will support it. If I were her adviser I’d tell her not to touch this one with a barge pole until after she’s inaugurated. Then move quietly relying mostly on Republican support.

          2. hunkerdown

            Doubtful that a power broker like McConnell doesn’t want this. He just wants to make sure he’s safely sheltered in the flexians’ skybox once this pig launches.

            Also, the discrediting of the nation-state and small-d democratic government is exactly what flexian bottom-feeders want.

          3. NotTimothyGeithner

            The Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates in Virginia gets flustered by the committees and rules he chooses all the time when they kill a bill the Speaker “supported.”

            With the recession and less money for localities, he had to give his party some wins especially with a GOP governor, but plenty of bills in other states with less crazy people than Virginia never get a vote. On the Senate side, one of the Republican Senators on the health committee which deals with abortion issues works for an hmo and refuses himself from the unrecorded votes.

            McConnell wants to retire as majority leader at this point. Legislation which might cause GOP followers to learn his name is the kind of thing he would want to avoid.

      2. bruno marr

        …not to be picky, Yves, but I think to “table” a bill (or vote/question) in a procedural sense is to set it aside temporarily (within the time frame of a session). Boehner isn’t contemplating tabling the bill, but contemplating bringing it to a vote by members.

        In any case, I’m gleeful at the comeuppance delivered to the Obamarama.

  4. jrs

    Call congress, thank them, if they were part of those that stopped Fast Track (for the time being). Reiterate opposition to Fast Track if they were not.

    I too was looking for the vote breakdown. Do you notice how the media never makes that easy to find? (nor the bill name and number – does anyone know for sure what it is?) Since this information is never easy to find, do you notice how much you are not REALLY expected to have a democracy? But that’s another rant, and always the case.

    Apparently all but one Democrat in the Senate voted “for the filibuster to prevent even the beginning of a debate on Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, which is also known as fast-track trade powers” It’s considered a test vote, I don’t know what that means, just that it will be back.

    We don’t need labor protections we need:
    – labor protections AND
    – environmental protections AND
    – democracy protections AND
    – SOVERIGNTY protections

    In other words scrap the whole darn thing.

      1. Llewelyn Moss

        The roll call bar graph tells a real story. Almost a complete F*** You to Obama by his own party. Maybe there is hope for Dems afterall. Or is it just because we’re getting close to an election. Either way, good news for a change.

        1. Pepsi

          I wonder if this is a recognition that the new left is dead. The masks are off, people realize that they party of transnational finance capital. Maybe the real left will be able to make something of this.

      2. ChrisFromGeorgia

        What the hell is wrong with Rand Paul?

        He came out with a statement opposing TPP right before the vote:

        Then he goes ahead and sticks with his buddy McConnell and votes for the motion to proceed.

        Does he really think we’re not paying attention? This is so disgusting and demoralizing. Say what you want about Ron Paul, he would have never done this kind of “I was against the bill before I was for it” crap. His father should disown him.

        1. Liz

          Actually, the roll call as reported in the NY Times has Mitch McConnell as the sole Republican voting against fast track. Does anyone know what’s up with that?

          Raising my coffee mug in celebration of this great news this morning!

          1. EricT

            Procedural. When Reid was the majority leader, he would also always change his vote if the bill was going to fail. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with who controls the floor debate after a failed vote.

          2. bob mcmanus

            “Mitch McConnell as the sole Republican voting against fast track.”

            Simple Senate procedure, the Majority Leader votes no and so has the ability to bring the bill to the floor again.

            1. bruno marr

              Yes. Exactly. It’s an essential element of “Robert’s Rules of Order” that you cannot re-consider a question (Bill/vote) if you vote for it and it fails passage. Since the chairman of a voting body (in this case Senate Leader McConnell) is the member who controls Bill consideration, that person usually votes last and votes a position (for/against) that allows re-consideration at a later date. No matter his/her personal politics.

              1. Sam Kanu

                It’s not supposed to be about “personal politics”, but rather what’s best for the voters of his his constituency.

          3. ChrisFromGeorgia

            I realize McConnell voted no, but as others point out that was a procedural move to allow him to more easily bring it back for another vote.

            The point is that Rand Paul was supposed to be “different” … how is voting in lock step with the rest of the GOP on a critical issue of national sovereignty and secrecy going to help him?

            Yves I make a motion to move Paul from the “principled insurgents” camp to the “clown car.”

  5. Code Name D

    But will it hold. We still have our anglers out there fishing for deals. These would be the Dems who will support if they get (fill in the blank) address in the bill. Something like better labor protections, child labor probation, food safety, or putting up bird houses on the lawn or making sure there is a minimum sprinkle count on all cupcakes.

    So if Obama tries to bring this back later (and I do suspect he will), he will include a long list of individual sweet heart deals. While also threatening every one else that to oppose this is a career ender and will get you challenged in the primary. You know, the same sort of crap he pulled with the ACA. The anglers have given their prices – we know they can be bought.

    Of course the nature of the TPP is that Obama can promise any thing – and still deliver nothing in the end.

    TPP is an undead bill. You can not kill that which is not alive to begin with.

    1. Alan Smithee

      These bills are like sharks. There’s always a bunch of remora attached to them.

    2. Lune

      The problem though is that many of those issues are directly in contrast to provisions already negotiated in the TPP. I haven’t read the provisions to see if Obama can ignore them, but if they have real teeth in them, that means he’d have to go back and renegotiate some of the trade deal. He doesn’t want to do that. So accepting those deals is a lot harder than the usual “I’ll fund a road in your district” type deals.

      1. Alan Smithee

        Very true. But there’s more kinds of pork than just bacon. They must not have offered Wyden anything beyond a hearty handshake.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Obama seems allergic to pork, and blue areas received much of the post 9/11 spending. The GOP won’t want to give pork to Team Blue.

  6. Sanctuary

    Now, because he lost so spectacularly, Obama has raised Elizabeth Warren’s profile even higher. His failed personal attacks on her have now made crossing her a virtual 3rd rail in Democratic politics. I’d say this is a good sign for the trajectory of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Increasingly, she cannot afford to go the “New Democrat” corporatist route and expect to win.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      Bill Maher is having an orgasm over Hellery saying she has moved way Left in recent public statements — Yippee. But as we learned the hard way from Obama campaign promises, talk is usually just cheap bullsh1+.

    2. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Watching Hillary triangulate on this issue has been entertaining, and validates the famed Clinton political instincts, but ultimately I wouldn’t put any faith in her. She’ll talk and spin a good game, but once she has the nomination sewed up she’ll shed her faux progressive costume and go back to being the good corporate shill that she is.

    1. grayslady

      Shades of Canada’s proposed hate crime law for any person or group who supports BDS. Are we now a colony of Israel? Is it official?

      1. Marko

        I think we should expand the boycott to include the U.S. , until we stop supporting the ethnic cleansing atrocities of Israel.

        I’m going to start by boycotting myself. I’m going to make my economy scream !

        Take that , Mr. Cardin.

      2. John Zelnicker

        grayslady – Am I reading you correctly? There really is a proposed law in Canada to deem support of BDS to be a hate crime? I have not heard about it, but that is beyond outrageous. (FD: I am Jewish, but not Zionist. I think that Israel has become what they despise.) Is there anything in the Canadian constitution or laws about freedom of speech, etc? (Sorry, I am woefully ignorant about the Canadian legal system.)

    2. Oregoncharles

      Yeah, that’s what moved my wife to call Wyden’s office. You should have heard her – I felt sorry for the poor woman on the other end. Then I called, and called it an abomination. I’m surprised Wyden voted against cloture; he must really be catching it from his constituents. The Steelworkers were leading the opposition at his last town hall. I like to get all technical on him, but those guys just chew him out. It’s a pleasure to hear.

      We were gentler with Merkley, but he’s still on the fence. If you live in Oregon, call him. He shouldn’t be on the fence about this.

      1. susan the other

        You could tell from the Finance Committee “hearings” that Wyden was having a full-blown existential crisis, Brown too and Schumer too. So a good talking to was necessary. Thanks, from beyond your borders.

  7. Lambert Strether

    As Ian Welsh (paraphrasing) said: “The left must defeat Obama and be seen to.”

    It’s hard to believe, but that moment may have arrived. Therefore, redouble efforts on all fronts!

    1. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©


      P.S. Press Secretary Josh Earnest always cracks me up.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    This is impressive indeed and, not to take away from the Net Neutrality grass roots effort, the more so if I’m right because there is little if any support from corporate interests such as there was in the neutrality vote. Granted, it’s a long way from being over.

  9. Lambert Strether

    And OFA circles the drain. From the Department of Schadenfreude:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of snot-nosed weasels. Do note, however, that pro-“trade” Senators refused to vote for cloture:

    So the game is not over, by any stretch of the imagination.

    1. Alan Smithee

      Eh. They’ll bum rush it through when all the right skids get greased and they think nobody is looking. Just like all the other trade deals, really. Nice to see OFA flying it’s true colors, though.

  10. jrs

    Firedoglake says there will be a vote on this (again?) next Tuesday (?) Ugh. Just a week’s respite in that case.

    Btw Wyden horse-trading on his own stinking bill is hilarious.

  11. Alan Smithee

    They really thought they could pass this through without Wyden? Woopsie! Somebody on Team Obama is going to get handed their head over this. Anyroad, can’t wait to see how many CBCer’s voted for this turkey.

  12. grayslady

    Someone please tell me how Hillary Clinton thinks she is a representative of the Democrat party when she refuses to castigate this so-called trade deal. Is she going to represent solely Wyden, Carper and the remaining Obots? Either she takes a stand against this deal, as almost every other Democrat senator–and the Independents–are doing, or she should just switch parties and join the dozen other Republican wannabes.

    1. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

      Hillary intends to coast in on the lesser evil vote.

      Her refusal to stand against the TPP does reveal her “everyday Americans” schtick to be total b.s., of course.

    2. hunkerdown

      No, that *is* the Party she’s representing. The rabble in the stands simply flatter themselves that they’re power players by lining up behind oligarchs.

  13. ian

    This is just so they can say “well, we tried” when they finally cave in and pass this atrocity.

    1. Cassiodorus

      Or maybe it’s so that when the final bill is passed they can advertise all of the toothless “protections” they added to the TPP when they have to apologize for their votes.

      1. Ian

        Regardless, this is a good thing that happened and we should take some degree in solace in that. TPP was not the only trade deal that would be effected by FTA that should scare the hell out of us.

        1. Carla

          Well, you know, the ACLU could at least partially redeem itself for having filed an amicus brief in Citizens United by mounting a legal challenge to Fast Track on Constitutional grounds.

          1. jrs

            What are the Constitutional grounds? I think the ACLU mostly focuses on the Bill of Rights and a few other amendments. This is straight separation of powers, in that Fast Track of a secret trade agreement means congress isn’t playing it’s role as legislators. Are there other grounds?

    2. Anon

      It all goes back to that “revolving hero” concept that Lambert mentioned a short while ago. I’m glad that the efforts have stopped it – maybe this will wake up people who normally don’t bother to the concept of eternal vigilance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in the calls and e-mails, but I’ll make mention to my more politically inclined friends to pick up the slack in my stead.

      1. Kokuanani

        Don’t despair over missing out on the “fun.” It appears there will be additional votes.

        Call/write/e-mail your Senators & Rep. and praise/castigate [or castrate] them for their vote. Tell those politically inclined friends of yours to do the same, and be ready for more at the “next time.”

        BTW, your communication, and theirs, does NOT have to be long or even articulate. The Congressional offices are counting NUMBERS, so don’t waste your efforts on composing a reasonable, persuasive communication. You can be assured that your Member of Congress will never see it; only the staff member in charge of this issue, who will report, “we got x e-mails/calls/letters in favor of blocking TPP and y opposed.”

        Trust me: I worked there.

  14. Ben Wolf

    There is no way Obama can accept a real enforcement mechanism against currency manipulators. The other countries in the deal need to manipulate to drain demand from the American economy while the lobbyists who wrote this abomination know any move toward exchange rate parity will damage their employers’ profits. If Democrats stand firm on this you can kiss TPP goodbye.

    1. wbgonne

      The currency-manipulation bill is the key because it is a poison pill and everyone knows it. Obama is vehemently opposed and the GOP won’t accept it either.

      Yves writes:

      Another part of a deal that the Senators had wanted was much tougher requirements on designating foreign countries as currency manipulators. Apparently, what happened today was that the Administration tried getting a vote on Fast Track only, and the Senators that were willing to go along if they got the child labor and currency manipulator protections passed rebelled. The contact said that this development was bad for Obama on every axis. While the Administration could in theory revive the deal by giving in on the child labor and currency manipulator issue, Obama may actually not be willing to concede this point.

      But there is of course another way to resolution, one we’ve seen hundreds of times during Obama’s presidency: Democrats capitulate on the crucial point (think public option), which here is the currency-manipulation bill. And it didn’t take very long:

      After President Barack Obama’s own party slammed the brakes on the centerpiece of his trade agenda — also a top priority for the GOP — there were early signs Democrats were considering concessions to revive the fast-track bill. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who rallied his caucus to reject the fast-track measure on a procedural vote, has already floated a plan to find a way out of the impasse by offering to drop anti-currency manipulation language in a customs bill from his party’s list of demands.

      Now Reid is truly opposed to TPP so I’m not sure where he is going with this. Is it kayfabe and, if so, who is the mark? But that article is ominous nonetheless because many of the Democratic who bolted yesterday will ultimately vote yes and will do so the instant the currency-manipulation bill is off the table. The other legislative provisions proposed as Fast Track attachments can easily be finessed (i.e., defunded) but the currency-manipulation rules cannot.

      This finally marks a big victory for Elizabeth Warren, who was the most visible face of this campaign and who the Administration attacked personally.

      I certainly wouldn’t declare victory yet though I will say this: if Elizabeth Warren were not on the scene I believe Fast Track would have passed the Senate yesterday. And that’s not to take away from Sen. Sherrod Brown who has been outstanding on this issue. All that said: this is a pass-fail test for the Democrats. Good intentions don’t mean a damn thing.

      1. susan the other

        There is a fine line between currency manipulation (blatant devaluation for exporters) and fudging currency to accomodate social expenditures (zirp and undeclared QE). Don’t they both actually do the same thing?

        1. wbgonne

          Funny you should say that. Perhaps you know that the Senate Democrats already capitulated and removed the currency-manipulation poison pill. And here is the explanation why the provision is so horrid for Obama and most of the Republicans:

          The administration generally opposes addressing currency issues in trade bills, saying it could invite allegations against the Federal Reserve’s efforts to help the U.S. economy. Keeping currency manipulation provisions out of the fast track bill was important to Obama’s allies. It’s possible the president would veto other bills that include such provisions.

          IOW, you appear to be absolutely correct.

        2. wbgonne

          Yes, and that is why Obama and the Republicans won’t have it. Or should I say: Wall Street won’t have it. I see the Senate Democrats already have relinquished this poison pill, however, so it may be moot. Was this Fast Track defeat some phony uprising before the capitulation? We’ll know soon.

  15. Sanctuary

    Democrats had better stick to their guns and keep saying no. This is akin to the terrible votes to end Glass Steagall and deregulate commodities futures/derivatives trading. Think about how much more solid the Democratic Party would have been and how much more trusted and popular it would have been after the Financial Crisis started had it taken a principled stand against the end of Glass Steagall. There would have been a clear difference between the two parties instead of two corporatist sides of the same coin. There is NO way you can deign to claim that you support the middle class and run on that as your campaign if you support the TPP. It is a catastrophe wrapped inside of a disaster and would spell the end of the Democratic Party if it passed. You can bet on that.

  16. Ian

    Gotta say, whoever is running the Hillary campaign was smart in recognizing this to be a gigantic landmine. Especially with Sanders breathing down her neck. Crossed fingers for an upset.

    1. Edwardo

      I’d agree, except whoever’s running her campaign clearly hasn’t figured out that Hillary Clinton is a giant land mine.

    2. ian

      I’ve got to say, this whole thing has me fascinated.
      I can’t decide whether Warren is making a political play here (a breathtaking one, at that) by publicly taking down O’s signature legislation. If she is, well, hat’s off to her! If she succeeds she’ll go from being a crank to a force to be reckoned with. (regardless of whether this is a play or not, she’d dead right about this one). This may be, you know – actual leadership.
      Then there is Hillary – at some point she is going to have to come out and state her position on this. Warren is doing us a favor here and I am savoring it.

  17. mrcoldwaterofrealityman

    A temporary setback until the Democrats in Congress are bought off.

  18. Lune

    This article in The Hill gives a little more detail about what went down.

    Basically, in order to get the TPA passed through the Finance cmte, Wyden and the Finance Dems made a deal that included four different bills: the Fast-Track bill, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a customs enforcement bill (which crucially includes stronger language about currency manipulators), and package of measures for trade with Africa. Wyden says he had a verbal agreement that all 4 bills would be taken up and passed, while McConnell says they only agreed on the TPA and the TAA. So after Finance passed all 4 bills, McConnell brought up the TPA / TAA only, which is why Wyden and the other pro-trade deal Dems balked and voted no.

    While this is a procedural SNAFU, it’s not an easy one to fix. The other bills that the pro-trade Dems want aren’t merely a few billion in pork barrel projects or something. Most significantly, the customs bill has stricter language on declaring countries as currency manipulators, and this seems to be the prime sticking point for Republicans (and Obama). Not only do they not want those stricter regulations, but Obama would have to renegotiate some provisions of the TTP to accommodate it, which he doesn’t want to do. I’m not sure how Obama plans to scale this impasse, since if he agrees to all four bills, he’d probably lose at least as many Republican votes as he would gain Dem votes.

    Also, can I say this knocks his vaunted 11-dimensional chess-playing ability down a few dimensions? Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat, who is a liberal with little love for much of what Obama needs from the Finance cmte to begin with is probably royally pissed with the way Obama and his Republican allies have negotiated in bad faith with him. Not sure how many more times he’ll be willing to walk the plank for a lame duck President who just crapped on his efforts to pass the President’s agenda.

    Also, by openly criticizing Elizabeth Warren, he’s just cemented her power. He was never going to get her vote, and he never needed it, just 5 other democrats. So why not leave her alone to do her thing making speeches while working quietly on 5 other senators who would be more amenable to his lobbying? Even if he didn’t win the vote, it would have been better not to fight her, than to publicly pick a fight with a junior senator and lose.

    IMHO, Obama lost badly on this one. He has lost all pretense to being able to influence the Senate, cemented the authority of his chief opponent in the Senate, and showed members of his own party that he negotiates in bad faith. Whether he ends up getting his trade deals or not, he has suffered a very real blow to his power for the rest of his term. (Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy :-)

    1. Vatch

      I have a silly question (and I apologize for injecting silliness into a very serious issue): does Obama even know how to play normal 2 dimensional chess?

      1. TedWa

        I’ve always said he’s playing checkers, he’s so obvious if people would just notice what’s behind the bs.

    2. Crazy Horse

      Damn, where is Osama bin Laden when we need him. If only he hadn’t died twice already Obama could stage a spectacular raid, capture and kill him, have Hollywood script a movie with Obama as the wise leader making tough decisions, and hire Elon Musk’s private SpaceX rockets to dispose of the body where nobody could ever prove that it wasn’t the real Osama. That should keep the press occupied long enough for the public to forget that he was sent away from the Senate with his tail between his legs after failing to be anointed as King.

  19. William Hunter Duncan

    Smoke and mirrors. The Senate Dems never say anything about Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS), which is the worst part of TPP, setting up a supra-national court system superior to our Constitution and laws, gutting our Republic sovereignty. Watch what happens if Obama negotiates a pittance of what they are asking for, and they will flip at the last minute, and vote for it.

      1. Doug

        Senator Warren has brought it up as a top issue several times. Reference today’s NPR interview linked in a comment above.

        1. just me

          Public radio — I just (well a couple hours ago prbly) heard David Dayen mention it — on the BBC! Think it was Newsday, I was in my car and I can’t find it in Newsday segment online, but… it was DDay! The interviewer was asking him what it would take for him to support TTP, and he said, first he’d have to be able to see it, and also if corporations can sue nations under ISDS then workers should be able to too.

          Checked DDay’s twitter feed — he has a tweet about being interviewed on BradBlog about TTP but I don’t see one for BBC.

    1. Carla

      Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren talk about ISDS. Maybe Bernie does too — I’m not sure.

      1. Ulysses

        Even Chuck Schumer talked a bit about ISDS, just after the Wikileaks reveal:

        “This is really troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”

        I am convinced that the result in the Senate, yesterday, owes quite a lot to the Wikileak reveal of the ISDS chapter several weeks ago. The reveal was a game-changer, in that it made it impossible for U.S. politicians to pretend that the TPP wasn’t about unilaterally surrendering national sovereignty to unaccountable, secret corporate tribunals.

        1. JCC

          I wish I felt the same way, but the fact that the majority of those that voted against it as well as MSM choose to discuss child labor and currency manipulation only tells me that Congress and the Courts are more than willing to give up Sovereignty and Responsibility.

  20. Glen

    Wow, may or desire to have a democracy continue to exceed Obama’s desire to be an asshole.

    Small wonders never cease to amaze.

    1. Lambert Strether

      One of signs that the Roman Republic was in terminal decay was that the Senate stopped insisting on its institutional prerogatives. Ceasar Augustus, being very smart, stabilized the imperial system by restoring the forms of their institutional power, but never the substance.

      So if the Senate wants to stay the Senate, they need to whack Obama on this, hard. That’s why Warren pointing out the absurdity of (substantively) passing the bill by approving Fast Track, and then (formally) passing it without the power to amend it, is such a powerful argument.

  21. Sanctuary

    I love the spin going on to try and dismiss the critics of this travesty of a trade bill. Like this awful article from the Washington Post:

    I especially love these 2 paragraphs: “Warren’s tenure in the Senate has been focused on banking and Wall Street, and she has made countless appearances in liberal settings or with liberal media outlets to argue that wage stagnation is causing the middle class to fall behind.

    Democrats largely latched onto this message for the 2014 midterm elections, and Warren became a star on the campaign trail, working for other candidates. But the effort paid little dividend to anyone but Warren. Democrats lost nine Senate seats and were relegated to their smallest number of House seats since before the Great Depression.”

    Do any of the readers of NakedCapitalism remember the Democrats latching on to Warren’s message EVER in 2014? I seem to remember a lot of vacillating and Republican-lite proposals being offered. It’s a nice Orwellian reimagining of history to blame Elizabeth Warren style populism for Democratic Party woes, but its still BS. As is this awful trade bill.

  22. Sanctuary

    I would be remiss to not also point out a great article that really points out what’s wrong with Obama’s “persuasive” abilities and his trade policies:

    Best part of article, these 2 paragraphs: “Then, with Bai, he mocked those who would “deal with climate change by shutting down global trade,” and he derided Warren as “a politician like everybody else” and one who is “absolutely wrong.” Warren’s arguments “don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny,” he said.

    But her arguments can’t be given the test of fact, because Obama won’t let his trade pact face the test of scrutiny. His disregard for congressional allies is as self-defeating as his dismissal of the public’s right to know.”

    1. JohnnyGL

      I loved that interview. That whole ‘pot calling kettle black” bit on Warren was the best part. The President was clearly ready to throw ALL of the toys out of the the playpen at that point. I wonder if that can be seen as some kind of turning point, did he know he was losing the Senate when he threw the tantrum?

      The corp media were so obnoxiously nice to him on that front. He should have been openly mocked.

  23. Ron

    Big change in trade polices with this action today, this never would have happen anytime since Bush Senior was in office. A step in the right direction and Warren deserves much of the credit.

  24. Z

    Obama postures like he is pissed off because his personal integrity is on the line here … I know, what personal integrity? … since some of the democrats are contesting his claims … well, his lies. It’s a cover to explain why he is fighting so hard for this when he did little or absolutely nothing to push progressive legislation, which his excuse makers say was because he was supposedly too nice of a guy to fight.

    Meanwhile, he worked very hard in pressuring democratic legislators and devising schemes to cut ss and he only aggressively pushed to quickly wrap up his “signature accomplishment” (making us buy health insurance from companies in the private sector) once it was clear that reconciliation was going to have to be used to pass the bill, which opened the door for a public option that he lied to the American people about wanting but had already dealt off to the corporate interests.


    1. Lambert Strether

      Please do not attempt to revive the public option magic sparkle pony, a bait and switch operation run by career “progressives” that successfully sucked all the oxygen away from single payer.

      1. EricT

        The public option was a compromise with repubs and conserva dems, who shot it down. Single payer was the original wish that would have never passed with the Congress at that time..

        1. Katiebird

          The PPACA passed without a single Republican vote. I keep hearing about how the compromises were required for compromise with Republicans but I have never before heard of a compromise where the other side didn’t have to supply as much as a single vote.

          Also, they ended up using the reconciliation rule that allowed it to pass with a simple majority.

          Democrats totally own the process of passing 2009s health care legislation and the PPACA is what they picked.

          Supporters of Single Payer were arrested and ejected from the Senate. They were shut out of the negotiations. Of the 4 bills proposed by various House and Senate committees not one of them suggested expanding Medicare and lowering the age to birth.

          With all the power of Obama and the gigantic majorities owned by the Dems, this could have been done on the first day of 2009……. If that was what Obama wanted. (Also, to be fair it could also have been done by Jimmy Carter in 1977)

          1. Lambert Strether

            Yep. What Katiebird said:

            Democrats totally own the process of passing 2009s health care legislation and the PPACA is what they picked.

            (Arrested in Max Baucus’s hearing room, not to mention having their questions censored from the record at White House “town halls”, and being insulted by Obama.) Quite a roll of honor, so far as I’m concerned, and a fine example of how much the Democrats hate their base.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Lack of merit aside, the public option sparkle pony was part of every Team Blue candidate’s campaign promise. Team Blue dumped it right away claiming it was politically unfeasible. This needs to be a constant reply to the dopes who claim Team Blue is secretly good.

        1. susan the other

          This TPP mess reminds me of private equity. A PE promotional for a new REIT. And don’t you worry your fuzzy little head about it – we’ll take care of everything.

      3. Z

        By mentioning that he was duplicitous about the public option is actually “reviv(ing) the public option magic sparkle pony”?


        1. Lambert Strether

          “opened the door for a public option that he lied to the American people about wanting but had already dealt off to the corporate interests” — “dealt off” implies that the pony had some value beyond the magic and the sparkle, no?

          1. Z

            I didn’t imply anything about the public option. I only made the point that:
            1. He said he was in favor of it.
            2. A lot of his backers were in favor of it.
            3. He worked behind their backs and made a deal to prevent it.
            4. He said that it wasn’t feasible because the votes weren’t there since reconciliation couldn’t be used to pass his healthcare bill.
            5. And then he aggressively jumped into action to wrap up the bill before momentum built to include a public option once it became clear that reconciliation was going to be used to pass the bill and he had lost his excuse as to why a public option couldn’t be included in it.


    2. Tom Hammett

      Exclusive: How Obama’s Early Career Success Was Built on Fronting for Chicago Real Estate and Finance
      Posted on May 4, 2012 by Yves Smith

      This passage from the article gave me all of the insight that I needed to classify Obama as nothing more than a great orator and campaigner but he prefers campaigning to governing. Obama is nothing more than a front man for his rich and powerful supporters.

      If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.

      Obama’s Chicago political base comes primarily from Chicago’s the finance, insurance and real estate industry (FIRE), and the wealthiest families — the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just the Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit “give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.”

      Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995.

      And yet friendly FIRE is just as deadly as the conventional FIRE that comes from bankers and developers that we’re used to ducking from. It’s the whole condominium of interests whose advancement depends on the elimination of poor blacks from the community and their replacement by white people and—at least temporarily—by the black middle class—who’ve gotten subprime mortgages—in a kind of redlining in reverse.

  25. Ulysses

    Oddly enough, there may be a few transnational kleptocrats who are also pleased with this result. Some of them pride themselves on their skill in gaming the current system– and the new TPP regime would be so easy as to pose no sort of interesting challenge to them.

    The best thing about this, from my perspective, is that there is more time available to help even more people learn how toxic this new regime would be before the next attempt to slide it by us. There are still way too many people completely ignorant of these issues!

  26. Clive

    The fast-track was pretty much essential for Japan to continue in negotiations for the TPP in anything like a serious manner. The Japanese negotiationg team had signalled that, to cut to the chase, no fasttrack-y, no deal-y.

    From today’s Nikkei (subscription required for full article, but the high-level intro gives the gist):

    The participating countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) will have seen the passing of the TPA bill as essential to conclusion [of the negotiations], so the delay of the bill is likely to also have the effect of [delaying] those TPP negotiations.

    Ignore all those “will have seens” and “likely tos” — without fast-track authority, the USTR cannot keep his face straight in claiming to be negotiating with any sort of authority if whatever he says has to now be picked over by a — demonstrably — cynical and willing to be obstinate Senate. While the TPP is certainly by no means deceased in terms of the participating countries, they won’t be rushing to invest serious impetus in the negotiations until they believe that Obama can swing a deal on the terms which his team is actually negotiating around.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you — you wonderful people of America ! And maybe, perhaps, a gruding “yeah, ta very much” to your politicians for growing a bit of backbone. But only grudgingly, mind you, because without your collectively saying loud and clear “sod off Obama, and take your crappy trade deal with you”, I have no doubt whatsoever that the fast-track vote would have turned out quite differently.

  27. Kokuanani

    Moreover, the stance of many of the opponents is entirely reasonable: show us the bill.

    All opponents have to say is “if this deal is so wonderful, SHOW US THE BILL.” The phrase “pig in a poke” comes to mind. After all the excuses re the ACA and “we didn’t know what we voted for,” I’m surprised ANY Congress person would vote for this horror. And Republicans are buying Obama’s “trust me” line???????

  28. Nat Uerlich


    Let’s not fall into the trap of “pro-trade” versus “anti-trade.” Is either side in the FTA/TPP debate really more “pro-” or “anti-” trade?

    This language is of a piece with the framing identified by Yves Smith in her post, namely, “last-minute.”

  29. John Yard

    I think it is important to contact your Senator who voted correctly to stop TPP to congratulate him/her on the results. And contact your House representative ( again ). I have a sense that the public is aroused on this issue and that both Dems and Repubs ( yes!) are receptive to public input more than usual.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Done this morning, but now I have to call again and express my unhappiness with anybody who voted for cloture. They want to have a debate on a bill they can’t see. How much sense does that make?

      1. Kokuanani

        Please remember too that the person reading your e-mail or taking your phone call is NOT the Senator or Representative. He/she is only counting the NUMBER of communications on TPP that roll into the office. Thus spending your time getting your friends, family to call [and call both DC and your “home”/local office] will be more effective than composing the “perfect” arguments.

        Tell them to oppose TPP. Maybe give one big reason, and let them know you’re watching them.

  30. Syzygy

    Very encouraging news but don’t forget the ‘back-up plan’, TISA which is being negotiated currently in Geneva. TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement, covers pretty much the same bases as TTIP and TPP combined. I suspect that TPP and TTIP may be Trojan horses.

  31. Tom Hammett

    sent May 13, 2015
    Dear Senator Bill Nelson:

    I want to thank you for your ‘no’ vote May 12 for Cloture of H.R. 1314 that contained the Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track) language.

    What we need are “fair” trade agreements that provide protections for American workers, from currency manipulations and prohibiting the importing of goods that used child or forced labor among other considerations.

    We also need for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is to get rid of the National Security secrecy on the agreement and implement transparency to the process.

    Again, thank you for your vote.


    Tom Hammett

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