By Bob Bennett
Does anyone out there think Obama needs more of Congress’s power than he’s already grabbed? Well, Speaker Boehner wants to give it to him. And why? To gain an easier way to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty, which surrenders U.S. sovereignty to a set of rules lawmakers can only peek at, so far.
That easier way is Fast Track Authority, now dubbed “Trade Promotion Authority (TPA),” to blur the intent, which is easier passage of the Treaty itself. Passage of TPA would reduce the requirement for passage of a treaty from 67 votes to 51. It would also bar filibusters and amendments to the treaty.
TPA’s official title is: “H.R. 1890: Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.” A brainchild of Sens. Hatch, Wyden and Ryan, it now supposedly contains limitations on the Fast Track process, and on the Treaty itself, designed to satisfy the objections of many members of both parties. For example, according to the NY Times, the TPA bill would dictate that:
“Any final trade agreement [would be] open to public comment for 60 days before the president signs it, and up to four months before Congress votes.
Great! But recall that: Obama promised, while campaigning in 2008, that “When there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as President, you, the public, will have five days to look online, to find out what’s in it, before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing.” This was a promise PolitiFact.com rated “Promise broken,” a promise that was repeatedly broken.
For example, he received the ObamaCare bill from Congress on March 21, 2010 and signed it on March 23rd. What’s worse, Congress had passed the bill without many, if not all lawmakers having read it, no doubt taking Nancy Pelosi’s advice that they should pass it, to find out what’s in it.
The promise is made by TPA, according to the NY Times, that if the trade agreement fails to meet the objectives laid out by TPA, “a 60-vote majority in the Senate could shut off “fast-track” trade rules and open the deal to amendment.” This is not an easy bar to hurdle.
So, in essence, passing TPA will change the Senate’s say over the Trans-Pacific Partnership from 67 votes required to pass it, to 60 votes needed to stop it.
Another sop to Congress, says the Times, is this useful trick:
“The package includes expanding trade adjustment assistance — aid to workers whose jobs are displaced by global trade.”
This aid is not coming from the skies, like manna, but from the American taxpayer. And the provision thereby admits the obvious: that American jobs will be lost. Many jobs will be lost.
The tireless Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, declares that NAFTA, Clinton’s contribution to “Free Trade,” bore bitter fruit for both American workers and Mexicans:
“Outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada and the related loss of 1 million net U.S. jobs under NAFTA, growing income inequality, displacement of more than one million Mexican campesino farmers and a doubling of desperate immigration from Mexico.” Public Citizen published a report detailing the damage done by NAFTA.
TPP will be an even more massive treaty, of 12 nations, comprising 792 million people. Among its other drawbacks, TPP would give large corporations power over nations:
“The tribunal can order compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation’s regulations. Philip Morris is using a similar provision against Uruguay (the provision appears in a bilateral trade treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland), claiming that Uruguay’s strong anti-smoking regulations unfairly diminish the company’s profits,” wrote Robert Reich, in HuffPo. He added:
“The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits — say, a regulation protecting American consumers from unsafe products or unhealthy foods….The deal will also allow American corporations to outsource even more jobs abroad.”
“The U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said there would not be increased immigration under the TransPacific Partnership.” Froman told Senator Grassley that “It is our expectation that we wouldn’t be doing anything in this area without Congress’ approval.” But the article states, “The U.S. Trade Representative website specifically lays out details for expedited entries for temporary entry visas for workers from other countries.”
Curtis Ellis, Executive Director of American Jobs Alliance, charged that: “The U.S. Trade Representative’s own website says the TPP includes an entire chapter to make it easier to bring foreign workers into the U.S. to take jobs that could be filled by Americans. Froman is either lying to Senator Grassley or he’s lying on his website.”
Writing in The Hill, Curtis calls the TPP “a Trojan horse for Obama’s immigration agenda.” He says: “In The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Quest for a Twenty-first Century Trade Agreement, Joel Trachtman declares that immigration is an “important frontier” in TPP, “promising great opportunities for individual migrants” and “developing country workers.
“We know Canada is now negotiating a trade pact with the European Union that would allow corporations to bring in unlimited numbers of contract workers in a broad number of fields, including manufacturing and construction. The Trans-Pacific Partnership includes Canada, and the Obama administration is negotiating its own agreement with the EU, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.” [Emphasis mine.]
As you can see, even the Democrats are against it, so Boehner is helping Obama to get this additional authority—as if he hasn’t snatched enough.
“I’m confident we’ll get it done,” Boehner said at a briefing. “We’ll do our part. The president must do his part as well,” he said, meaning, talk more Democrats into voting for the bill.
But, if they reject TPA, it will be difficult to pass the Treaty. Boehner needs House Republicans to add to the very few Democrats supporting this bill. It’s really tiresome to see the Republican Speaker running interference for Obama, yet again. Fact is, few Republicans want this bill. Now is the time to tell your representative: Reject TPA.
Bob Bennett is a New York-based writer who has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post, and has appeared on Fox and Friends and America’s Newsroom. He has traveled widely and written travel pieces for the NY Post, a cover article for the Jewish Press, and an op-ed for the medical journal Cancer Biotherapy & Radioimmunotherapy. Bob was also award-winning producer of a travel radio show heard on New York stations: WMCA, WNWK and 50,000 watt WOR and the national Sky Angel Network. He now blogs on Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Community and Red State Diaries.