Friday, April 10, 2015

"Fast Track" Bill Coming in the Senate Next Week​


Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), deciding if he wants
to be a senator after 2016 (source)

by Gaius Publius

As predicted, TPP will enter its legislative round next week, with the expected introduction of "Fast Track" enabling legislation. A reminder of the relationship and the order of things:
There will be several battles; the first is coming in the Senate Finance Committee, likely in April, with a vote on "Fast Track" enabling legislation. ("Enabling" legislation means Fast Track enables TPP by disabling Congress's ability to debate and amend it.) If Fast Track passes out of committee, it will go to the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it will go to the House. If Fast Track passes both houses of Congress, TPP will be introduced. If Fast Track fails at any of these points, TPP will never see the light of day (unless Wikileaks leaks more of it).
Here's that announcement via The Hill (my emphasis throughout):
Obama official: 'Fast-track' bill coming next week

Senators will introduce trade promotion authority legislation next week, a top Obama administration official said Thursday.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker expects a “fast-track” bill to be introduced early next week in the Senate and said in a call with reporters that she is “anxiously awaiting to see the language.”

Pritzker is the first administration official to suggest a firm timeline for legislation that would grant President Obama "fast-track" powers for negotiating trade deals.

Speculation has been swirling about when the Senate Finance Committee would start moving on a bill.
(In case you've forgotten, Penny Pritzker is the billionaire Hyatt scion and Obama appointee who hates unions.)

There's more in the piece about progressive pushback, but let's pause here for a moment. "Senators" will introduce Fast Track, but it doesn't say who. I assume this means Orrin Hatch, Chair of the Finance Committee, which will vote on the bill before it reaches the floor. But why the vagueness about who will actually introduce (sponsor) it? Are they hoping Democratic senator Ron Wyden, the Ranking Member, will co-sponsor the bill with Hatch? Something to watch.

Ron Wyden Is Teetering on Yes, But Hasn't Said So Yet

All along, the holdup has been Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon. He has "progressive" cred, at least when it comes to NSA and spying, but none when it comes to "free" trade. Progressives (real ones) are pushing him hard to oppose Fast Track in committee. Politico (note: "TPA" is code for "Fast Track"):
WYDEN TURNS DOWN INVITATION TO ANTI-TPA EVENT: Opponents of trade promotion authority legislation are keeping the pressure on Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden not to cooperate with Republicans on the so-called fast track trade bill by inviting him to speak at an event they are holding tonight in Portland.

A Wyden spokesman said the senator won’t be at the anti-TPA event because he will be traveling to the southern part of the state that evening to participate in an Oregon tourism event with Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Jeff Merkley early Friday afternoon. Wyden also has town hall meetings on Friday and Saturday.

The anti-fast track rally includes speakers from the Oregon AFL-CIO and other labor groups, the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign and two local universities. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian will also speak. More about it here:

Wyden, a longtime supporter of trade agreements, has been in intense negotiations with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on an updated version of the TPA legislation, which last passed Congress in 2002 and expired in 2007. Talks have continued at the staff level over the congressional spring break, with no firm indication yet that a deal will be announced when lawmakers return next week.
So Wyden's still on the Fast Track fence, according to this report. I won't dwell on his key position now (read "Ron Wyden, Progressives and TPP" for a sense of why he's important). Just know that two things hang in the balance, one for certain and one we can make certain:
  1. If Wyden says Yes to Fast Track, the odds it will get out of the Senate and into the House are hugely greater. Democrats will use Wyden as the excuse to vote Yes on the floor.
  2. If Wyden says Yes to Fast Track, he deserves never to serve as senator past his 2016 election. Fast Track and TPP are that important.
Does Wyden want to continue to be a senator? Do you want to help him decide? Read on.

What You Can Do

Read about Fast Track and TPP, starting here, or more broadly here. Contact Ron Wyden's office and tell him you know he likes billionaire-controlled "free" trade, but you don't, and you're already working to see him defeated in 2016 for even thinking about it.

If you're really bold, tell him you'll help defeat him not just in the primary election, but in the general election as well. After all, corporatist Democrats have already lost the Senate to corporatist Republicans (their friends, by the way), and the whole caucus has anointed corporatist Wall Street darling Chuck Schumer as next caucus leader. So why do you care if the Senate contains 44 Democrats or 43?

And yes, this means that I think Chuck "Wall Street" Schumer will cost Democrats the Senate in 2016. I do. Remember, this is a Warren moment and we live in Piketty times. Even Hillary "Wall Street speaking fees" Clinton could be a Democratic liability in 2016.

Ron Wyden's contact information is here:

Senator Ron Wyden
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
tel (202) 224-5244
fax (202) 228-2717

Please help, especially if you live in Oregon. And thanks — those calls are needed now.


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At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both Obama AND the GOP are pushing this anti-American abomination. That such an alliance exists should be plenty of reason for the average American to oppose it.


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