After a rare show of spine yesterday, Senate Democrats blocked the Administration plan to bring the Fast Track authorization, which would effectively secure passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to a debate. This was a bloody nose to Obama. Knowing that the House had the potential to be a battleground for the bill, the Adminstration chose to originate it in the Senate, with the idea that they’d get swift passage with a comfortable majority which would help persuade fence-sitters and weak opponents. Instead, the fight in the Senate went much better than the trade deal’s opponents dared hoped, tuning into a high-profile drama and showing how deep-seated opposition to the bill is.
Today, Obama got ten Democratic senators to flip their votes without giving them the concession that they had wanted, that of passing a set of other trade-related provisions along with Fast Track authorization. As we indicated yesterday, one of the changes they had wanted, putting more stringent sanctions in place against foreign government currency manipulation, was anathema to the Administration. So after what appears to have been no more than a dressing down, ten Democratic party senators relented, giving Obama a clear path to moving Fast Track authorization to a vote in the Senate.
Now do not forget that the key vote was and remains in the House. As Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, which has done impressive, sustained work on trade deals over the years, said on Democracy Now yesterday morning, before Obama won over his Judases:
But it’s not over. It’s going to come back up for another repackaging. It was a very important signal, because the whole point in going to the Senate was to show, oh, fast track has momentum, because in the House it’s in real, honest-to-God trouble. In the Senate, it’s more like skirmishes, that show how extremely well the public has done in making their senators, as well as their House members, wary of doing this trade vote. But in the Senate, eventually they will get the vote. In the House, different piece of business. And so, folks who don’t want to see fast track, the House is the place to focus. But for the next couple of weeks, call your senators, because it’s an interesting food fight.
It is important to let the ten turncoat Senators know that their constituents tell them that they are supposed to represent their interest, and not carry water for the President. As Lambert noted in comments yesterday:
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.
Therefore, in addition to calling your Representative (contact information here) be SURE to call your Senators if they are one of the traitors whose sellout was critical to Obama expecting to pass Fast Track later today. As reader Ulysses wrote:
These are the ten Senate Dems who were in a White House meeting, earlier today, and enlisted to assist the GOP with giving President Obama fast-track approval tomorrow: Tom Carper (Del), and Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
I appeal to anyone who lives in any of these Senators’ states to contact them and urge them not to give fast-track authority tomorrow!! Carper and Wyden are probably lost causes, but the rest of them may be susceptible to constituent pressure.
Actually, a Congressional source recommended concentrating on Wyden, since he is up for reelection in 2016 and a lynchpin player. While he indeed is not likely to flip, he’ll should be made to feel (correctly) that he is at risk for doing the President’s bidding. Here are the Senate contact details. Please call as early in the day as you can, and keep calling daily as long as the bill is being debated. If you Senator was and remains on the right side of Fast Track, as in against it (see the roll call here), it would be good, as reader John Yard pointed out, to thank them and urge them to take a tough stand in the debates (forceful statements against the bill will help with the House fight).
And it is also important to remember that the game is more complex than just the US votes, and the realistic possibility of defeating Fast Track in the House. Even this one-day drama has has dented the momentum Abe has been trying to generate for the TPP in Japan, which is critical to getting the pact finalized. If Japan is out, plenty of other countries will pass as well. The more the opponents can do to make the bill look in doubt in the US and delay passage, the more it make the uphill battle Abe has in Japan to garner support for the TPP even more difficult. As Clive wrote:
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 http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXKZO86715410T10C15A5EAF000/ (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.
In keeping with Clive’s long-standing observation that the Japanese press is keenly attuned to whether Obama can get the TPP through Congress (and whether the process is contested), the Japan Times, which tends to be more pro-US than other Japanese publications, today ran an editorial, No need for haste on TPP deal. The Japanese are masters of using caution and delay as cover for opposition. The Nikkei and Japan Times articles are proof that the Japanese are aware that their options are still open.
Please share your messages to your Congresscritters and their responses in the comments section. They help make it easier for other readers to make calls and also to craft cogent arguments to persuade family, friends, and colleagues to join them. We’ll do a “Hall of Shame” post if readers provide us with enough examples of rancid defenses of Fast Track.
One reader recommended using the Facebook page for your alma mater to help educate a broader circle that might not understand that these deals are not about trade and are direct attack on national sovereignity and consumer and environmental protection.
And again, thanks for your efforts so far in this important fight, and keep the pressure on!