Thursday, June 11, 2015

Nancy Pelosi Just Got a Talking-To from Her Caucus


UPDATE: The Rule as described below passed the House, 217–212, with eight Democrats jumping in at the last minute to push it over the line. McCarthy's order of business will start soon, presumably Friday. The roll call vote on the Rule is here. Blumenauer was a lead vote, again. There could be trouble ahead, with yet more kind words for Pelosi's helpful role, from New Dem chair Ron Kind, at the link. Pelosi basically owns this bill now. Stay tuned.

Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. James Clyburn (Getty Images; source)

by Gaius Publius

Just In: Rep. Sam Farr (CA-20) has just declared himself pro-Fast Track. His phone number is here: 202-225-2861.You might make him aware of your thoughts.

The Fast Track trade vote in the House looks set for Friday 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 — the Fast Track vote count itself; newly-announced strong opposition from the right-wing Heritage Action operation; and 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" (click to jump there). 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 217 to pass a bill in the current House (since they are two members short). There are 245 Republicans and 188 Democrats. 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. There are now 21 announced Democratic Yes votes, according to the latest from the NY Times — including the 18 named by Alan Grayson, plus Jim ("Air Force One") Himes and Kathleen Rice, who just switched sides [also Sam Farr, noted above]. There is also speculation about undecided Democrats, but the number is unlikely to be greater than six.

If you'd like to make a call or three, consider talking to these fine people:
  • Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) — 202-225-2645
  • Terri Sewell (AL-07) — 202-225-2665
  • Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) — 202-225-4965
And don't forget:
  • Sam Farr (CA-20) — 202-225-2861
per the "Just In" note above. 

Do it now though. The first two might be swayed. The third needs a continuation of the talking-to alluded to above and described below. You might mention the phrase "your legacy" as you speak.

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 (explanation here) and Hoyer as quiet Yes votes, but only if they have to. It seems they'd rather to see Fast Track pass with their No votes — 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 245 (the number of total Republicans) and you get 195. If 21 (or so) Democrats can't pass the bill, it means there are 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.

So watch the TPA ("Fast Track") vote — H.R. 1314 — which will be one of several. Do more than 20 Democrats vote Yes? 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 just come out strongly against the TPA bill, and will score a member's vote in evaluating the member for future support. 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 has reportedly been working "almost daily" in opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of her own 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, 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 offsets the damage to workers from all the job-creating "trade bills," called "Trade Adjustment Assistance," or TAA.

Democrats needed both bills to pass in order to make it look like the party as a whole cares about workers. All you need to know:
  • 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. (Clever move to get different members to vote Yes on different parts.)
  • Therefore, both bills must pass 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. (Clever of the Republicans to set it up that way; or way too clever. We'll see.)
So Pelosi and Boehner came up with a plan (explained 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 corporations care about. Obama can veto the rest and still get Fast Track authority for himself and the president that follows him.

The clever Pelosi-Boehner plan was initially reported as this. 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 will 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 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 Yes on TAA, including the anti-Medicare language. If you say all this in campaign ads, what's the Democrat's response?

These ads are easy; they write themselves. Here's one now:

Want to help put this ad on billboards in Costa's district? Click here.

What is Mr. Conservative Democrat Costa going to say?
"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 enter electoral history and become 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 new 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 self-described as being "neutral" or "silent" — is blown. Thank you, Vox.

Where We Stand

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 has now been put into the "Africa aid" bill (now "Africa Aid and Repeal Medicare Offset"), and it's being debated now.

In addition, the anti-Medicare provision will been taken out of the TAA bill ("rendered moot") per Republican Leader McCarthy's latest memo, if the Africa aid bill passes, and then put back in after the voting is done. (Yes, really.)

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 with no further vote since it has been rendered moot by the preferences [Africa aid] bill. This will leave the House to vote only on the remaining issues under the Rule: TPA, TAA and customs.
"Sequester" is the "reverse the Medicare provision" language, and as I said, it's now in the "Africa" bill and is expected to pass. The trick is that the Rule now means 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.

McCarthy again:
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 tricks? If TAA fails, no one has to take a vote on TPA (which pleases Heritage Action, among others). Also, a vote on the "Rule" plus a vote on TAA is 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 that they can comfortably vote their contributors' wishes instead of their constituents' future incomes?

In addition, there's a long list of other things wrong with the so-called "customs" bill (formally, an amendment to H.R. 644, if I read things right). House leaders have larded it through 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." All he needs is for Fast Track to pass and his golden era is assured.

Bottom line — Nothing has changed, but will Democrats think it has? Those ads still write themselves. Stay tuned. It's going to be an interesting set of votes.

Other bottom line — Nancy Pelosi is deeply the perp in all of this. Without her ceaseless effort, Fast Track is doomed. Do remember that. It's her last strong act before she enjoys her own golden era. Her office phone number is above.

[Note: Multiple small updates for accuracy.]


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At 11:46 AM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I appreciate your fight on this, G.P.

I'm an Ohio voter, currently in W.V. for a few more hours. Anyways, there are plenty of toll-free ways to give Sam Farr a piece of your mind.

Tweets by @RepSamFarr.
100 W. Alisal Street Salinas, CA 93901.
Phone: (831) 424-2229.
Toll Free: 800-340-FARR
Fax: (831) 424-7099.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Dan Lynch said...

Good info, G.P.. Shared.

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we form the roster of those who betrayed America for the filthy lucre, Nancy Pelosi must be close to the top of the list, with Obama, Reid, Boehner and McConnell.

At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Dianne Foster said...

Thanks, thanks! I'll give Pelosi one more call in the morning before work. I'm sure she'll be glad to hear from me again.

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, G.P. Your explication and analysis continue to be invaluable.

Personally, I never once believed that Pelosi was anything but a "Yes" on TPP where it counts, whatever her personal vote might be. It's been her pattern all along. She talks loudly of demanding that any contentious bill adhere to Dem Party princlples while sandbagging progressives without hesitation. Remember her endless assurances that ACA would need to have a public option? I think Obama must have polished his bait-and-switch skills by watching Pelosi at work. When push came to shove on the big anti-progressive, corporatist bills that Obama was championing, Pelosi said one thing to the Party's base and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to deliver exactly what Obama wanted.

This time, she didn't even bother with the fig leaf. She publicly declared a long time ago that she was working hard in her caucus to find a "path to yes" for the president. I hope she enjoys her Pyrrhic victory.


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