Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Floor Votes on Fast Track Next Month; Open Rebellion Moves to the House


Democrats playing "Follow the Neo-Liberal Leader"

by Gaius Publius

This is a "bring you up to date" post for those following TPP. If you read these pages (or here), you know that Fast Track enabling legislation for the TPP "trade" agreement passed the Senate Finance Committee with seven Democrats voting their loyalty to President Obama and corporate America instead of to their constituents.

Shortly after the Finance Committee vote, the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Paul Ryan, passed the same bill. The Hill (my emphasis throughout):
The House Ways and Means Committee approved a trade promotion authority (TPA) measure — 25-13 — with only two Democrats lending their support to the bill, highlighting the difficulty President Obama is having courting members of his own party.

As expected, Democratic Reps. Ron Kind (Wis.) and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) backed the measure. ...

The House’s action follows the Senate Finance Committee’s approval by a 20-6 vote — with seven of the panel’s 12 Democrats favoring its version of the bill — late Wednesday night, setting up floor votes in each chamber sometime next month.
"Democrat" Ron Kind is chairman of the Wall Street–financed New Dems, so he's a known quantity. More on Earl Blumenauer, a surprising name in the pro-TPP list, below. You can read or ignore the rest of the article as you choose. It contains much Obama-pleasing spin about how important TPP might be, along with the usual complement of she-said opposition from the progressives.

Ways and Means Committee member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) had planned to offer a substitute for the bill, but it was never considered:
Levin’s attempt to make wholesale changes to the Ryan bill fell through the cracks after his substitute amendment was ruled out of order because it crossed committee jurisdictions and thus never got a vote.
I've written that I believe any change to Fast Track will kill the bill; I still think that's true. This means that if Pelosi is still trying to find a "path to yes," the only place she'll find it is by capitulating to President Obama. On the other hand, if she's holding out for changes as the only condition of her support, she's likely to come down on the No side, which would help the progressives enormously.

Note Earl Blumenauer above, another so-called "progressive" from Oregon, voting for Fast Track and TPP. If you're starting to think he needs the Ron Wyden treatment, you're right. His contact information is:

Earl Blumenauer
1111 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4811
Fax: (202) 225-8941

Feel free to tell him you'll be happy to make him a lobbyist in 2017. Like Ron Wyden and all House members, he's up for reelection in the next cycle. (For why Wyden and now Blumenauer are so bad on this issue, read here.)

Open Rebellion Against TPP in the House

Like all of us, I'm interested in the floor vote in the Senate (my early prognosis here). But I think the real action, or at least the greatest uncertainty for the bill, is in the House. Most progressives, meaning members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are united against Fast Track. Many claim to still be seeking that illusive "path to yes," but if Fast Track fails, TPP is moot — it will never see the light of any congressional vote.

In addition, as noted, I believe any attempt to modify Fast Track will kill the bill. For example, here's what Orrin Hatch said earlier about Portman and Stabenow's attempt to add currency manipulation language to the Senate version of Fast Track:
In the most contentious vote of the day, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) lost their bid — on an 11-15 vote — to include an amendment in the legislation that would have required the White House to include enforceable currency manipulation provisions in international trade agreements.

Five Democrats — Cantwell, Nelson, Carper, Bennet and Warner — and 10 Republicans opposed the amendment. ...

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) went as far as to say if the amendment passes, “you could kiss TPP goodbye.”
Hatch is right, and not just on the currency issue. Fast Track (officially called "Trade Promotion Authority" or TPA) is written exactly as Obama and his corporate friends need it to be written. Anything that ties his hands — enforceable environmental or labor-rights language, for example — will unravel the multinational negotiations like a ball of cotton wool.

That said, here's the state of play in the House. Roll Call:
Trade Fight Galvanizing the Left

With the first round of appropriations bills and a possible budget conference report on the House floor this week, the chamber’s progressive contingent is looking farther down the road at the storm brewing over so-called Trade Promotion Authority, or “fast track.”

Legislation allowing President Barack Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement would ordinarily be divisive within the House Democratic Caucus, but progressives say there’s even more at stake in this most recent fight: 2016.

If they can’t stop the TPA bill, the nearly 70 voting House members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus are determined to make such a ruckus that the party’s 2016 candidates — presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton in particular — realize Obama’s middle-of-the-road approach to trade, or any major policy area, is not acceptable.

“I think if we were to keep fast track from happening here, then the message is pretty clear to the national campaigns, Hillary’s in particular, that this is an issue that’s going to energize the base,” said CPC Co-Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz.

“I think it kind of sets a tone nationally,” Grijalva said, “My point being, if the vast majority of the Democrats in the House are willing to confront their president, it only makes sense that any candidate for that position is on the line.”

“The Progressive Caucus, and the progressive movement in general, needs to be loyal to the principles and ideas, not personalities,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., Grijalva’s co-chairman.
"If the vast majority of the Democrats in the House are willing to confront their president" ... That's why they call it "open rebellion." Nothing covert about opposing, strongly, the leaders of your party. Do those leaders include Nancy Pelosi, or will she stand with her more progressive colleagues?
Much of the larger House Democratic Caucus strategy on TPA hinges on whether Republicans need Democratic votes. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, traditionally an ally of progressives and a point person when it comes to delivering results for the Obama administration, hasn’t signaled how she’ll ultimately vote. But she said at her own news conference on April 23 it would behoove Republicans [to] work with Democrats if they do in fact need votes, and she would be fighting to make the bill more palatable for her members.

Pelosi would be giving House progressives a huge win in the event she came over to their side on trade, a sign ideology [note author's spin] won out over her loyalty to the president, and also that, politically, liberals had won the messaging wars over even the center-left [more author's spin].
Note the author's spin, called out twice above. Neo-liberalism hasn't been "center-left" since the day it was hatched.

Nancy Pelosi isn't much of an ally of progressives lately. She supported and whipped for Chained CPI, for example, Obama and Boehner's failed attempt to cut Social Security benefits in the last Congress. And she's the one who publicly said she wanted a path to yes on TPP. So we'll have to see.

Prognosis? Alan Grayson told me in this interview (jump to 41:20) that he thought Fast Track could very possibly fail, that too many House Republicans would be opposed. Keith Ellison sounds less certain:
“I believe we will derail this,” Ellison said, “but no matter what happens, it’s kind of like this: Will the little guy beat up the big bully? Who knows? But if the little guy’s willing to fight, the big guy’s able to win in a bloody battle or lose in a bloody battle. But the battle will be bloody.”
Indeed, the battle will be bloody, or as Warren has characterized these duels, with "teeth on the floor." Watch for Warren to weigh in again, then note Hillary Clinton's response (or non-response). She could easily fail this early and important test badly, driving even more progressives to stay home. I'm certain that's not what she wants to do. Does she also want to "do" TPP? The real center-left awaits the answer.


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At 1:52 PM, Blogger Don P said...

Stupid question, but Sandy Levin is my rep, what should I be saying when I call his office at this point?

At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Hillary] "could easily fail this early and important test badly, driving even more progressives to stay home."

I'm progressive, and I don't stay home no matter how odious the Democratic slate is. I will vote non-Demopublican if I have that option, or leave the line blank if I don't.

Sure, I don't win. But when enough of us do this, the two parties want to know why, thinking that with the right words, they could win us. They try to satisfy our discontent. If people stayed strong on this position, things would change.

Unfortunately, people are weak-minded and switch when they hear promises which won't be backed by actions. Watch this with Hillary and the GOP candidates.

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, and again, it is pointless and a total waste of time to contact any congresswhore about this. Their minds were made up (read: bought) long ago. They only have a decision on how to make their betrayal of the 99.99% LOOK like it isn't... not a tall order considering the intellectual dwarfism so rife across the electorate.

And who in any rational world would consider Pelosi a progressive... or even an ally to progressives (unless the money doesn't care)? Pelosi is among the most corrupt American house members ever. It might not SEEM so, but only in comparison to the nearly universal omnicorruption among ALL members. Pelosi, hoyer et al are utterly despicable.

As I had feared, obamination's lame duckness has NOT provided him cover to veer left. Rather it has allowed him to shed his centrist façade totally as he bulldozes for the rightmost .01% on trade et al, and against Russia in fomenting the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Kiev.

Consider for just a femtosecond who obamination's (Reagan's 8 and 9)economic and war advisors are... the same cadre from bill Clinton's admins (Reagan 4 and 5)... the same, really, as the bushbaby (Reagan 6 and 7).

In spite of the unusually vocal objections to TPP and TTIP (amazing what a generation or two of proof of just how distrous these FTAs are... even considering just how bone stupid americans are) TODAY, TPA will pass... and if it does not, it will in Hillary's admin (Reagan 10) or in whichever fascist troglodyte is nom'd from the other side.

The campaign in 2015-16 will cost somewhere north of $5B... and that money, though gleefully proffered by the .01%, will NOT come without a pre-arranged QED.

American voters have been stupid and lazy so long, they've allowed voting to become so incredibly corrupted that, short of a complete upheaval, it cannot ever be fixed -- the money that owns and benefits from it would never allow it to be changed.

I submit that the agony of this period of time would probably end sooner if we just stood aside... like in voting for Sanders or Stein or writing in Warren... and allowed the fascists and Nazis to totally destroy everything with their unbounded greed, hate and fear.

Short of total defeat in '45, would Nazi Germany have ever changed? I say no. I say, further, that short of utter destruction, the Nazi ideologies would have only spread throughout the world given more time... as ours is spreading now. France just passed a sweeping new NSA-type surveillance paradigm.


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