NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden vote to fast-track Trans-Pacific Partnership in Senate Finance

Deeply dis­ap­point­ing news to share tonight: So-called “fast-track” leg­is­la­tion that would pre­vent Con­gress from con­sid­er­ing amend­ments to pri­or to a future vote on rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship is mov­ing for­ward after the U.S. Sen­ate’s Finance Com­mit­tee vot­ed twen­ty to six to advance it.

Among the twen­ty sen­a­tors who vot­ed in favor were Wash­ing­ton’s Maria Cantwell and Ore­gon’s Ron Wyden (who is also the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber). Five oth­er Democ­rats joined with them to help the Repub­li­cans advance the bill. One Repub­li­can, Richard Burr of North Car­oli­na, sided with the remain­ing Democrats.

The roll call was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats Ron Wyden (OR), Maria Cantwell (WA), Bill Nel­son (FL), Thomas Carp­er (DE), Ben Cardin (MD), Michael Ben­net (CO), Mark Warn­er (VA), Repub­li­cans Orrin Hatch (UT), Chuck Grass­ley (IA), Mike Crapo (ID), Pat Roberts (KS), Mike Enzi (WY), John Cornyn (TX), John Thune (SD), John­ny Isak­son (GA), Rob Port­man (OH), Pat Toomey (PA), Dan Coats (IN), Dean Heller (NV) Tim Scott (SC)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Charles Schumer (NY), Deb­bie Stabenow (MI), Robert Menen­dez (NJ), Sher­rod Brown (D‑OH), Robert Casey (PA), Repub­li­can Richard Burr (NC)

That was­n’t all. As The Hill report­ed, Cantwell did­n’t just vote for fast-track. She also inex­plic­a­bly opposed an bipar­ti­san amend­ment offered by Deb­bie Stabenow and Rob Port­man that would force the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to put enforce­able cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tion pro­vi­sions into trade deals. The White House did­n’t like the Stabenow/Portman amend­ment, of course, but that’s to be expected.

Despite hav­ing Ron Wyden’s sup­port, the cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tion amend­ment failed on a vote of fif­teen to eleven, thanks to the nay votes of Cantwell and four oth­er Democ­rats. If Democ­rats had stuck togeth­er, the amend­ment would have passed.

“I think there is great eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty out­side the Unit­ed States and I sup­port Trade Pro­mo­tion Author­i­ty,” Cantwell said in a late evening press release sent to NPI and oth­er media out­lets fol­low­ing the com­mit­tee’s vote.

The release did not elab­o­rate on Cantwell’s pro-fast-track stance or offer a ratio­nale for her posi­tion. Instead, it focused on two amend­ments to the bill that Cantwell spon­sored that the com­mit­tee vot­ed to adopt. Cantwell says that these are intend­ed to bol­ster enforce­ment and make it eas­i­er to gath­er labor statistics.

Watch­ing Maria Cantwell and Ron Wyden do the work of the Unit­ed States Cham­ber of Com­merce and Wall Street in the U.S. Sen­ate is more than unset­tling… it’s incred­i­bly dis­turb­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly con­sid­er­ing that Cantwell and Wyden have been such pio­neer­ing lead­ers on issues like Inter­net free­dom.

We’re used to think­ing of them as the good guys. But today, they sided with big indus­try’s armies of lob­by­ists over the peo­ple of the Pacif­ic Northwest.

There is plen­ty of evi­dence show­ing that past trade schemes like NAFTA and CAFTA have result­ed in the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of our man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, a stag­ger­ing num­ber of lost jobs, and big­ger trade deficit (PDF).

And the lat­est, best analy­sis of the fast-track, “Trade Pro­mo­tion Author­i­ty” leg­is­la­tion that Oba­ma wants (PDF) shows it’s just as bad as leg­is­la­tion that George W. Bush asked for more than a decade ago and did­n’t get.

Per­haps Sen­a­tor Cantwell has­n’t seen the research… like this fine piece from EPI. Or maybe she has seen it and does­n’t think that it’s cred­i­ble. Either way, she and Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden are let­ting us down on a mat­ter of major importance.

If they con­tin­ue down this path, they will quick­ly destroy much of the good­will and grat­i­tude they have earned through their lead­er­ship on issues like Inter­net free­dom and Wall Street account­abil­i­ty. We appre­ci­ate Cantwell and Wyden’s lead­er­ship on envi­ron­men­tal and con­sumer pro­tec­tion. But we need them to be cham­pi­ons for work­er pro­tec­tion, too. We need them to stand with Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Sher­rod Brown. And regret­tably, they’re not. They’re miss­ing in action.

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews asked Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to respond to sev­er­al crit­i­cisms that have been made of the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship, includ­ing by Sen­a­tor War­ren. Oba­ma respond­ed by say­ing, “I love Eliz­a­beth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues, but she’s wrong on this.”

Wrong how, Mr. Pres­i­dent? “Trust me, I know what I’m doing” is not going to cut it. If the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship is so won­der­ful and full of good­ness, why is it a secret? Why can’t the peo­ple of this coun­try read it and see what it says?

Sen­a­tor War­ren asked and answered that ques­tion in a post on her blog today, respond­ing direct­ly to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma:

Here’s the real answer peo­ple have giv­en me: “We can’t make this deal pub­lic because if the Amer­i­can peo­ple saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.”

If the Amer­i­can peo­ple would be opposed to a trade agree­ment if they saw it, then that agree­ment should not become the law of the Unit­ed States.

She adds:

The Admin­is­tra­tion says I’m wrong – that there’s noth­ing to wor­ry about. They say the deal is near­ly done, and they are mak­ing a lot of promis­es about how the deal will affect work­ers, the envi­ron­ment, and human rights. Promis­es – but peo­ple like you can’t see the actu­al deal.

For more than two years now, giant cor­po­ra­tions have had an enor­mous amount of access to see the parts of the deal that might affect them and to give their views as nego­ti­a­tions pro­gressed. But the doors stayed locked for the reg­u­lar peo­ple whose jobs are on the line.

If most of the trade deal is good for the Amer­i­can econ­o­my, but there’s a pro­vi­sion hid­den in the fine print that could help multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions ship Amer­i­can jobs over­seas or allow for water­ing down of envi­ron­men­tal or labor rules, fast track would mean that Con­gress couldn’t write an amend­ment to fix it. It’s all or nothing.

Before we sign on to rush through a deal like that – no amend­ments, no delays, no abil­i­ty to block a bad bill – the Amer­i­can peo­ple should get to see what’s in it.

Sher­rod Brown has been lead­ing this fight, and he points out that TPP isn’t clas­si­fied mil­i­tary intel­li­gence – it’s a trade agree­ment among 12 coun­tries that con­trol 40% of the world’s econ­o­my. A trade agree­ment that affects jobs, envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, and whether work­ers around the globe are treat­ed humanely.

It might even affect the new finan­cial rules we put in place after the 2008 cri­sis. This trade agree­ment doesn’t mat­ter to just the biggest cor­po­ra­tions – it mat­ters to all of us.

Sen­a­tor War­ren’s crit­i­cisms are spot on.

Con­sid­er­ing that past trade schemes haven’t deliv­ered the ben­e­fits that were adver­tised and promised at the time they were adopt­ed, the last thing Con­gress should be doing right now is giv­ing up its abil­i­ty to mark up and crit­i­cal­ly eval­u­ate a mam­moth, unprece­dent­ed trade scheme like the Trans-Pacif­ic Partnership.

Our founders gave us a repub­lic with a sys­tem of checks and bal­ances for a rea­son. They want­ed a sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. Pres­i­dents almost always ask for — or demand — more pow­er than they should have, regard­less of par­ty. This is one of those times where Con­gress needs to say “Sor­ry, no!” … not, “Sure, yeah, whatever!”

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One Comment

  1. This vote is tru­ly in char­ac­ter for Maria Cantwell. She con­sis­tent­ly votes with the con­ser­v­a­tives. She lost my vote per­ma­nent­ly when she vot­ed for the Iraq war, which was a vote to kill our chil­dren. She either was remark­ably stu­pid, if she believed Bush, or just evil, if she cyn­i­cal­ly vot­ed for an unjust and illea­gal war to pan­der to the idiots who did­n’t know the dif­fer­ence between Iraq and Afghanistan. 

    If pro­gres­sives ever want to take back our gov­ern­ment we need to take a les­son from the tea par­ty and pri­ma­ry peo­ple like Cantwell. If pro­gres­sives con­tin­ue to sup­port evil or stu­pid politi­cians because they have a D after their name we will con­tin­ue to spi­ral down the rat hole.

    # by Gddiver :: April 24th, 2015 at 3:02 PM