Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fast Track & TPP Whip Lists


UPDATE: Fast Track fails in the Senate, 52–45 (three senators not voting)

U.S. Trade Deficit since 1960. NAFTA was signed in 1993.

by Gaius Publius

As we near critical votes in the House and Senate on Fast Track and TPP, I've been looking for a whip list, a list of who's likely to vote how. Thanks to The Hill, we have one (my emphasis):
Democrats are bucking President Obama on a trade bill, with 65 House members of his party already lined up against a measure that would speed global agreements through Congress, according to The Hill's Whip List.

In the Senate, 20 Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) have said they won’t back trade promotion authority (TPA), also known as fast-track, putting in peril the White House’s efforts to push for broad trade deals with countries from Latin America to Asia and Europe.

That opposition could grow in the House as trade critics launch a full-court press. Twenty-four Democrats, many of whom previously signaled support, aren't saying whether they will vote for fast-track.

While the bill looks to have decent prospects in the Senate — seven Democrats supported the measure in the Senate Finance Committee, likely enough to overcome any procedural hurdles on the floor — the House will probably decide the issue by a thin margin. So far, 12 House Democrats have expressed support, including Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.), all members of the New Democrat Coalition who are stepping up their efforts to get their own party on board.
To review, Fast Track (called "trade promotion authority" or TPA) has to pass or TPP won't even be considered, because frankly, if you don't fast-track it (and hide its provisions from the public), it will never pass — the treaty is that toxic. So the key votes in both chambers will be on Fast Track.

In the Senate

Harry Reid, a TPP opponent, is trying a delaying tactic in the Senate. McConnell is bringing the bill to the floor anyway, and the vote on that could come very soon.

According to The Hill, here are the Senate counts:
  • Republican Yes — 27
  • Republican No — 3
  • Republican Undecided — 6
With 54 Republicans in the Senate, that leaves 18 Republican votes unknown, by my count. It seems likely that all the rest will vote Yes. Of special interest are the presidential candidates. Cruz will vote Yes, but Rubio and Paul are in the undeclared group. Graham is a No. Let's assume 51 Republican Yes votes. (Click through to the article itself for the names.)

On the Democratic side:
  • Democrats Yes — 8
  • Democrats No — 21
  • Democrats Undecided — 7
With 44 Democrats in the Senate, that leaves 8 Democratic votes unknown. There are two Independents, Sanders and King. Sanders is a solid No, and King, according to The Hill, "is leaning no" (though in my estimation he could come through with a pro-corporate vote if needed). Those 8 Yes votes include these seven from the Finance Committee:
  • Ron Wyden — Ranking Member and lead perp
  • Michael Bennet — Former head of DSCC
  • Maria Cantwell
  • Ben Cardin
  • Tom Carper
  • Bill Nelson
  • Mark Warner — Added to leadership by Chuck Schumer
Plus one new name:
  • Patty Murray
That's "progressive" Patty Murray, also part of Senate Democratic leadership. The Hill again:
"Murray supports the package of bills that came out of the Finance Committee. She will be working with colleagues on ideas for improving the legislation and managing its path through the floor," said a Murray representative.
That's either b.s. or she's trying to sabotage the treaty. Nobody who wants Fast Track to pass wants to improve it. Any real change to Fast Track will kill it, which is what happened to the currency manipulation amendment offered in the Finance Committee. The Hill again, reporting on the Finance Committee vote:
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. ...

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) went as far as to say if the amendment passes, “you could kiss TPP goodbye.”
On the other hand, there may be hope on the Republican side. CNN recently:
"We need 15 or more Democratic votes," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the top vote counter for Senate Republicans. "We're not unanimously, on our side, in support of it. So this is a priority of the President so that comes with an obligation for him to work on members of his own party to produce the votes."
That may well have changed over the weekend.

Bottom line in the Senate — If there are 51 Yes votes from Republicans and 8 Yes votes from Democrats, only one of those 15 undeclared or undecided Democrats has to take the lobbyists' or White House's latest "best offer" to pass it. I count odds of passage in the Senate as good, though I really want to see those voting lists. A lot depends on the number of Republican defections.

JUST IN: Wyden may now be vacillating. Lord knows how this will end.

In the House

For TPP opponents it gets more interesting in the House. First, the Republicans:
  • Republican Yes — 67
  • Republican No — 7
  • Republican Undecided — 7
On the Democratic side:
  • Democrats Yes — 12
  • Democrats No — 65
  • Democrats Undecided — 24
The current House is 244 Republicans, 188 Democrats and 3 vacancies (as of the start of this week). The above count includes only 81 Republicans, leaving 163 Republican votes undeclared. On the Democratic side, 111 votes are accounted for above, leaving 87 Democratic votes undeclared.

Adding the Democratic Yes and Undecideds together yields 36 Democratic Yes votes. (If you scan the undecided list, you see a lot of Steny Hoyer's and Krysten Synema's listed. Also one Nancy Pelosi, who tends to vote with the White House these days.) The Financial Times reports similar numbers:
At best, however, there are now only 50-60 Democrats in the 435-member House who might support granting the president fast-track authority, said Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat. Mr Connolly is one of just 13 Democrats in the House to come out publicly in support of the bill.
These are low numbers. The known Yes total could be as low as 137 (60 Democrats plus all Republican Yeses and Undecideds from the Hill article). The actual Yes numbers will be far higher, but the threshold is 218 votes to pass. Of those 163 undeclared Republicans, they will need 80 votes at least, and TPP is unpopular in Tea Party country:
Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast-track authority to the president (8% in favor, 87% opposed), as do independents (20%-66%), while a narrow majority (52%) of Democrats are in favor (35% opposed).
Plus there's the "Don't give more power to the 'Kenyan'" issue, and the fact that Fast Track will apply to the next president as well, whoever she is, leading many members to say "OMG, Hillary gets Fast Track too?" There are a lot of reasons for Republican House members to hide from their constituents on this vote. One tell for me is the high number of undeclared Republican House votes — 163 is more than half of their caucus.

Bottom line in the House — Less than two weeks ago, Steve Scalise, Republican whip, said he didn't have the votes in the House:
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Wednesday that GOP leadership doesn’t have the votes yet to pass legislation that would give President Barack Obama fast-track authority on trade deals, hinting that [more] Democrats will likely be needed to help pass the trade legislation.

A majority of Republicans support the bill, which would let Obama use expedited procedures to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 12 Pacific Rim countries and a separate partnership with Europe, but the measure still doesn't have enough members committed to passage. Democrats overwhelmingly oppose giving Obama fast-track authority to essentially bypass Congress, which has led to an intense lobbying effort by the White House and Republicans.
Still true? We'll have to see, but I lean toward Fast Track failing in the House. That's just a guess, obviously, but the Washington Post's Dana Millbank agrees.

What If Fast Track Passes?

If Fast Track passes, you'll see another huge increase in our trade deficit, similar to the one caused by NAFTA. (See the chart at the top.) This deal exists, in part, to lift import tariffs for "importers" like Nike and will send a strong message to outsourcing corporations — send even more jobs to Asia, because that's where the profits are.

You'll also see a considerable reaction against it from voters — TPP is hugely unpopular on both the left and right — which could cast a bad spell on any Democratic presidential candidate not named Bernie Sanders, the only one in the race who's excellent on trade. If 2014 showed that Democrats are losing their brand and their base, 2016 could be an absolute disaster, even with "first woman president" as their main draw. Last we heard, she wants the TPP discussion to just "go away."

Bottom line if TPP passes — Watch out.


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At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it's a good thing that the authorization bill didn't pass today.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It's a very good thing, Nony.

But the people with all the money will be back to try again, they're not used to taking 'no' for an answer.

And some on 'our' side are definitely just looking for a little cover to vote for the TPP.

At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of these days, we will say no and ensure that they take it. We won't care if they like it.


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