Yves here. The vote today on Trade Adjustment Assistance is set to begin in the House at 11:00 AM. The target is to whip against TAA. As Gaius said via e-mail: “That’s where the first vulnerability is, and it’s vulnerable. The ask in all calls … “Vote No on TAA.” This is critical because, as Politico explains (emphasis ours):
Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) plan to bring a package of trade bills to the House floor is proving to be a big gamble, as both senior Republicans and Democrats are privately wondering whether they will be able to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program to help workers who lose their jobs due to free trade, in a do-or-die Friday vote…
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Labor Secretary Tom Perez spoke first, urging Democrats to clear TAA, despite their deep reservations. If the House passes TAA, the chamber would be able to consider legislation that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of his top legislative priorities.
But TAA is unpopular with Republicans, and aides in both parties estimate that only 50 to 100 GOP lawmakers will vote for it. That means Democrats hold the key to its passage — and ultimately to the overall trade package.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he told McDonough that the White House’s position was “bullshit.”
“Mr. McDonough comes in and he says, ‘It’s all on you. We can’t do anything if you don’t accept this bad (Trade Adjustment Assistance),” DeFazio said, complaining that it would cut Medicare. He said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) then asked McDonough whether the president could use his leverage with Republicans — who “desperately want” fast-track to pass — to push for a more robust TAA package to help workers…
If TAA fails, the House will not take up Trade Promotion Authority, the key legislation that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Under that scenario both sides would have to regroup and figure out a way forward — or else the 12-nation trade deal could fall apart
It is very important to call your Representative today, particularly if they are a Republican or a Democrat who has said they support it like Don Beyer (D-VA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Jim Himes (D-CT)., and Oregon Democrat traitors, per Oregoncharles:
Bonamici, Dist. 1: this is a swing district – she COULD put herself in danger.
Schrader, dist. 5: Also a swing district.
Blumenauer, dist. 3(?): supposedly liberal, from a blue district (E. Portland area).
ESPECIALLY if you’re in 1 or 3, call them and make politely phrased threats. They should at least be nervous about this.
Gauis singles out some prime targets and courteously provides phone numbers:
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) — 202-225-2645 (fence-sitter)
Terri Sewell (AL-07) — 202-225-2665 (leans Yes)
Sam Farr (CA-20) — 202-225-2861 (just announced Yes)
Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) — 202-225-4965 (lead perp)
My mother lives in Alabama 07 and I am making sure she calls Sewell.
Even if your Rep is a supposedly committed no, you should make them sweat before the vote. The whip count is very close and this really could go either way. If you have time, enlist family, friends, and colleagues to make calls. They do not need to be long, they just need to make the point that you and your allies are watching this vote and you will never vote for them (and if they are Democrats, for the party) ever again.
You can find phone numbers here.
By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.
Just In: The Rule as described below — jump to “Where We Stand” — passed the House on Thursday afternoon, 217–212, with eight Democrats jumping in at the last minute to push it over the line. The order of business as defined by the Rule will start soon, perhaps Friday, June 12. First vote will be on TAA. If TAA fails, they close up shop on trade deals for this round. If TAA passes, they move to TPA. See below for the details.
The roll call vote on the Rule is here. Blumenauer was a lead Yes vote, again. With only eight Democratic Yes votes on the Rule, there could be trouble ahead. Note the additional kind words for Nancy Pelosi, this time from New Democrat chair Ron Kind, at the link.
House phone numbers here. Do call today. Leader Pelosi’s phone number is 202-225-4965. Let her know she now owns this bill.
Also In: Rep. Sam Farr (CA-20) has declared himself pro-Fast Track. His phone number is 202-225-2861. You might make him aware of your thoughts.
The Fast Track vote in the House looks set for Friday, June 12, or soon thereafter, and there’s scrambling on both sides. I want to look at just a few aspects of this fascinating attempt at corporate wet-dream enabling — (1) the Fast Track vote count itself; (2) newly-announced strong opposition from the right-wing Heritage Action operation; (3) the sudden unraveling of a deal Pelosi had with Boehner to pass the Senate’s TPA plus TAA combo bill — where Pelosi’s playing both sides finally got her a talking-to from her caucus.
We close with a “where we stand” summary and two bottom lines. Scroll down to read just that part. It’s been quite a ride.
What Are the Vote Numbers in the House?
On the vote tally, the most consistent numbers I’m hearing are in the range of those listed below. From Politico Pro (subscription required), this is James Clyburn talking about the whip count:
Clyburn: TAA offset still needs work
… [Assistant Democratic Leader James] Clyburn said during his remarks that he didn’t think Republicans had 198 votes to complement the current 20 Democrats who support fast track. …
I refer you back to this “whip count” post for my earlier speculation about the numbers. To review, if all members vote, it takes 218 to pass a bill in the current House (since they are now just one member short). There are 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats as of June 2. Most of the numbers coming out (some aspirational, some not) say that 50 to 70 Republicans could vote No on the combined TPA-TAA bill that came out of the Senate, and that something like two dozen Democratic Yes votes would be needed.
Clyburn’s statement is close to many reports. There may be more than 20 Democrats who are pro-Fast Track, but not many more. I count just 22 announced Democratic Yes votes — including the 18 named by Alan Grayson, plus Jim (“Air Force One”) Himes, Kathleen Rice, who just switched sides, Don Beyer, and Sam Farr, noted above. There is also speculation about undecided Democrats, but the number is no more than six and probably a lot less.
If you’d like to make a call or three, consider talking to these fine people:
- Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) — 202-225-2645 (fence-sitter)
- Terri Sewell (AL-07) — 202-225-2665 (leans Yes)
- Sam Farr (CA-20) — 202-225-2861 (just announced Yes)
- Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) — 202-225-4965 (lead perp)
Do it now though, literally now. The first two might be swayed. The third might be re-incentivized. And Leader Pelosi needs more of the talking-to mentioned above and described below. You might bring up the phrase “your legacy” as you speak with her.
Note that Clyburn is in House leadership (meaning he’s likely pro-Obama and pro–Fast Track if he can get away with it); also that Clyburn is in the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have been heavily lobbied by Obama to stand with him. I would also count Pelosi (see here) and Hoyer as quiet Yes votes, but only if they have to be. It seems they’d rather see Fast Track pass while they vote No — Fast Track and TPP are that toxic in the Democratic House caucus.
All this means that the number of Republican No votes on Fast Track must be quite high. Subtract 50 from 246 (the number of total Republicans) and you get 196. If2 (or so) Democrats can’t pass the bill, there have to be more than 50 Republicans opposed. If they force a vote on Fast Track on Friday (or soon thereafter), it’s going to be very close.
Whenever that occurs, watch the TPA (“Fast Track”) vote — H.R. 1314 — which will happen if TAA passes. Do more than 22 Democrats vote Yes, or fewer? If so, who? Do more than 50 Republicans vote No? If so, who?
Heritage Action Will “Score” the TPA Vote
Heritage Action, the action arm of the Heritage Foundation, has now come out strongly against the TPA bill, and will score a member’s vote in evaluating the member for future support. Breitbart.com reports:
Heritage Action Will Score Fast-Track Vote
Without promises from House and Senate leadership that the Export-Import Bank will not be reauthorized, Heritage Action is urging Republicans to vote against a top Obama trade agenda item.
The conservative group is warning that it will be scoring the upcoming vote on whether to provide President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals.
“Absent ironclad public commitments from Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that the Export-Import Bank will not be reauthorized, Heritage Action will key vote against H.R. 1314,” the group warns.
Heritage Action argues that while it supports trade, the recent effort has become another vehicle for welfare spending.
“The bill combines President Obama’s request for fast track authority or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) with a stimulus-level extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and, as mentioned
above, has become inextricably linked to the passage of the Export-Import Bank,” Heritage Action explains.
“Free trade benefits the economy and all Americans. Congress should not shy away from promoting free trade at every opportunity. However, The Heritage Foundation’s Ambassador Terry Miller says this particular ‘TPA has gotten bogged down in the politics of protectionism and welfare spending,’” it adds.
The group stresses that it is a “free trade organization” but that the addition of TAA makes support for TPA even tougher for conservatives. In the end they are calling for conservatives to oppose the bill, H.R. 1314, and warn it will be included as a “key vote” in their legislative scorecard.
“Heritage Action has always been a free trade organization, but free-market conservatives are understandably split on this president’s request for fast track authority,” the group explains.
Heritage and much of the right hates the Export-Import Bank, which selectively benefits exporters and mainly benefits Boeing, by the way. (Alan Grayson concurs in opposition to the bank.) They also hate the worker assistance provisions in TAA.
Will Heritage peal away enough Republican votes to defeat TPA? We’ll find out soon.
Why Is the Vote So Close? The Medicare Poison Pill
This explains the meat of the problem — for the bill and also for Leader Pelosi, who is reportedly working “almost daily” to oppose the wishes of the vast majority of her caucus. That opposition has now spilled over into intra-caucus conflict.
There are more corporate Democrats in the House than any of us would like there to be, and all are potential pro–Fast Track (pro-TPA) votes. But the bill reported out of the Senate is two bills rolled into one — Fast Track itself, called “Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA, and a bill that pretends to offset the damage to workers from the coming job-creating “trade” bills, called “Trade Adjustment Assistance,” or TAA.
Democrats need both bills to pass in order to make it look like the party as a whole cares about workers. All you need to know:
- The Senate reported both bills out as a single piece of legislation.
- If the House votes Yes to the exact language of the combined Senate bill (TPA plus TAA), it goes straight to the White House. No more votes.
- The House will vote on each part of the combined Senate bill separately, however. (A move to get different members to vote Yes on different parts.)
- Therefore, both bills must pass separately for the combined Senate bill to pass.
- If the House changes any of the language of either bill, it goes into conference instead of to the White House, which means more delay and more voting.
- If either the TPA or TAA bill fails, the whole Senate bill fails.
- There’s a poison pill in the language of the Senate TAA bill.
Somehow, the Senate put language in the TAA bill that said, in effect, “Yes, we’ll allocate money for (some small number of) workers who need ‘assistance,’ but that money will come out of Medicare.”
Oops. Here’s why:
- Even corporate-loving Democrats have to appear to be pro-worker. So they need to pass TAA to make their voters swallow their Fast Track vote.
- Even corporate-loving Democrats need to appear to be pro-Medicare. So they can’t vote for TAA as it’s currently written.
- You can’t cast a vote against Medicare and not expect to get killed in the next election. The ads write themselves.
So Pelosi and Boehner came up with a plan on Tuesday to “get to yes,” as reported by several sources. Four trade bills are going to be voted in this session, TPA, TAA, a “customs” bill and an African assistance bill. Only TPA and TAA matter, since Fast Track authority is all Obama and the CEOs care about. Obama can veto everything else and still get Fast Track authority for himself and the president who follows him.
The Pelosi-Boehner Tuesday plan was initially this: A sufficient number of Democrats would vote Yes for TAA — the one with the anti-Medicare language — then vote Yes for one of the other bills (initially the “customs” bill), which would have language canceling the anti-Medicare language.
Tuesday night, Boehner thought he had a deal with Pelosi. Tuesday night Pelosi thought she’d put together a way for her caucus to pass “TPA plus TAA” with Senate language intact (which tells you she’s a firm but quiet Yes, right?).
Tuesday night, however, progressives figured out that the Democrats were being had. How? Consider — You’re a Republican candidate fighting a Democratic incumbent in 2016. That Democrat voted against Medicare by voting Yes on TAA. If you say this in campaign ads, what’s the Democrat’s response?
These ads are easy; they write themselves. Here’s one now, against Democrat Jim Costa. If a Republican puts up that ad, what’s conservative Democrat Costa going to say in response?
“Yes, technically I did vote for TAA with the anti-Medicare provision, but then I took it back with my other vote for this other bill which cancelled the anti-Medicare provision. It’s technical, but it’s all good. You get that, right?
“Besides, it’s not my fault that the President signed the bad Medicare bill and vetoed the good Medicare bill. Not my fault at all. Still love me?”
With that story to tell, conservative Mr. Costa will close his electoral history book and open as a brand new lobbyist in January 2017. He and everyone else who took that vote.
Nancy Pelosi’s Tuesday Night Deal Was a Trap
On Tuesday night, based on the following Politico report, Nancy Pelosi had agreed to deliver Democratic votes to say (1) Yes to TPA; (2) Yes to the anti-Medicare but otherwise worker-friendly TAA; (3) Yes to the “customs” bill that was originally planned as the vehicle to cancel out the anti-Medicare language.
On Wednesday morning she got wise, got religion … or got a talking-to from her suddenly freaked-out caucus. Here’s part of the report on which this is based:
After vote set, Dems threaten to derail Obama’s trade bill
Nancy Pelosi and her allies are objecting to a procedural side issue involving Medicare money.
… On Tuesday night, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) thought he had an agreement with Pelosi to drop that approach and use money from more stringent tax enforcement instead.
But Democrats raised an objection that night and the issue boiled over at the party’s weekly conference Wednesday. [Earlier language: “But on Wednesday, Democrats raised a new objection.”]
They said under the voting procedure Republicans are planning, a vote would still be taken on the plan using Medicare funds, but it would then be overriden by a subsequent vote. That strategy would avoid directly amending the TAA bill, thus reducing the differences between the package of House trade bills and the one the Senate already passed. Trade supporters are intent on avoiding sending the trade bills back to the Senate for further action, lest even more problems arise.
Now here’s Mr. Clyburn to explain the problem simply (same source):
But Democrats say they want no part of a vote to cap Medicare spending, even if it would be fixed by a subsequent vote.
“Why should I be recorded as voting to take $700 million out of Medicare in order to get something to put it back?” South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, told POLITICO on Wednesday.
But it gets worse for Pelosi. There’s now a report from inside the Wednesday caucus meeting.
Pelosi’s Progressive Talking-To
Pelosi’s pro-TPP deal with Boehner unraveled ugly in the Wednesday caucus meeting. Via this report from Vox:
Pelosi “misread” Democratic Caucus on fast-track bill, friend charges
The fight over President Obama’s trade agenda has gotten so ugly that one of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress accused her of subverting the will of House Democrats at a closed-door meeting of top party leaders on Wednesday, according to five sources.
“With all due respect,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro said to Pelosi, you’ve “misread” the caucus. It might not sound like much, but that’s a stiff charge. It suggests that Pelosi, the best vote counter of her era, is either slipping or intentionally undermining her colleagues. That was a bridge too far for Pelosi. Her aides began clearing the room of staff to limit the number of witnesses while she told the lawmakers who remained in the meeting that she’s been trying to get the best possible deal for American workers.
Ultimately, DeLauro has become the point of labor’s spear in trying to defeat a bill that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals. And Pelosi, who is claiming neutrality, has become a shield giving space for the White House and Speaker John Boehner to shepherd the trade bill through the House floor.
Read the rest; it’s fascinating. This not only happened — it was reported as happening. Pelosi’s careful cover story — she’s widely described as “neutral” or “silent” — is blown, and her caucus is now talking about the trap.
That was Wednesday and we’re ages beyond that. The Pelosi-Boehner trickery has moved on. The “pay-for” to offset the anti-Medicare provision in TAA was put into the “Africa aid” bill (retitled “Africa Aid and Repeal Medicare Offset”), and the Africa bill passed in the House.
In addition, the anti-Medicare provision has been separated out of the TAA bill — “rendered moot” per Kevin McCarthy’s latest leadership memo, because the Africa aid bill has passed — but it will be put back in by the Rule after the voting is done. (Yes, really.)
McCarthy (click carefully; that’s the Weekly Standard):
After passage of the trade preferences bill tomorrow, the House will consider the Rule to bring up the TPA/TAA bill and the customs bill. Instead of dividing the bill into two questions (TPA & TAA), the Rule will divide it into three questions (TPA/TAA/sequester). Since the House will have already spoken on the sequester provision, the Rule will consider as adopted the question of the sequester [anti-Medicare language] with no further vote since it has been rendered moot by the preferences [African aid] bill. This will leave the House to vote only on the remaining issues under the Rule: TPA, TAA and customs.
“Sequester” means “cuts to Medicare,” and as I said, language reversing that was put in the “Africa” bill and passed. The trick is that the Rule now means there will be no direct vote on the offending TAA language.
But a vote on the Rule is still a vote on the Medicare provision — it’s a vote to hide the anti-Medicare language in TAA, then reinsert it if TAA and TPA both pass.
On Friday, the House will begin with debate on a motion to concur on the TPA/TAA bill. The House will then debate the motion to concur on the customs bill with a House amendment. As I mentioned at Conference, the House will then request to go to conference with the Senate on the customs bill.
After debate on both motions on Friday, the vote order will be as follows:
- Question 1 – TAA. If this vote fails, no further action will be taken on the remaining trade motions. If this vote passes, the House will proceed to:
- Question 2 – TPA. If this vote fails, no further action will be taken on the remaining trade motion. If this vote passes, the House will proceed to:
- Motion to concur on the customs bill with a House amendment.
Do you see the other tricks? If TAA fails, no one has to take a vote on TPA (which pleases those frightened by Heritage Action, among others). Also, a vote on the “Rule” plus a vote on TAA is still a vote for the anti-Medicare provision, since the anti-Medicare language has to be restored (by the Rule) into TAA if that bill is to be identical to the Senate version.
Will this pro-TPP trickery (thank you, Leader Pelosi) be enough to assuage enough frightened Democrats so they can comfortably vote their contributors’ wishes instead of their constituents’ incomes? If the floor speeches preceding the vote on the Rule are any indication — including from Rules Committee Ranking Member Louise Slaughter — many Democrats recognize that the Rule vote and/or a vote on TAA could be deadly in the next election. That’s apparently why only eight Dems voted Yes on the Rule, and only near the end, when the Republicans couldn’t pass it alone.
In addition, there’s a long list of other things wrong with the “customs” bill (formally, an amendment to H.R. 644, if I read things right). House leaders have larded it up with lots of bad
provisions, like forbidding the U.S. Trade Representative to address climate change in a trade agreement (discussed here). There are many more like that.
The customs bill is so changed that it will have to go into a conference committee, but it’s a giveaway bill anyway. It can take any form, and Obama can still veto it if and as he chooses. If TPA and TAA pass intact, he can sail into his “Bill Clinton future.” His next golden era is assured.
First bottom line — Despite McCarthy’s maneuvering, nothing has changed. The package still has a poison pill. But will enough Democrats think it’s now OK to vote for it? Those “she voted against Medicare” ads still write themselves. It’s going to be interesting. Stay tuned, but let your voice be heard first.
Second bottom line — Nancy Pelosi owns this bill, and that needs to said publicly. Without her ceaseless effort, Fast Track is doomed. Do remember that; Fast Track is her last strong act before she enters her own golden era. Her office phone number is above.