NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

DelBene, Kilmer, Larsen planning to vote for fast-track; McDermott, Smith, Heck opposed

As many read­ers of the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate may have heard, the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is set to vote tomor­row on con­tro­ver­sial “trade pro­mo­tion author­i­ty” leg­is­la­tion that would grant Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma the pow­er to fast-track the pro­posed Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship. This leg­is­la­tion has already made it through the Sen­ate and is now await­ing a vote in the House.

Sup­port for and oppo­si­tion to fast-track does not break down along par­ty lines. A num­ber of mem­bers from the House Repub­li­can cau­cus’ mil­i­tant Tea Par­ty fac­tion plan to vote no because they don’t want to give Pres­i­dent Oba­ma fast-track author­i­ty or a polit­i­cal vic­to­ry. To off­set their no votes, Boehn­er needs some Democ­rats to cross over. The White House has been try­ing to con­vince Democ­rats from trade-rich areas like the Pacif­ic North­west to sup­ply those votes.

Most of the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus is expect­ed to vote no, because a vote for fast-track is a vote to tie Con­gress’ hands and pre­vent it from hav­ing any fur­ther role in the secre­tive Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship except tak­ing an up-or-down vote on the leg­is­la­tion when it comes up for final ratification.

We at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute strong­ly oppose fast-track and have been con­tact­ing mem­bers of Con­gress from the Pacif­ic North­west, ask­ing them to stand up for the region’s work­ing peo­ple and vote no.

Three Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of Con­gress from Wash­ing­ton have answered the call and will cast “nay” votes: Jim McDer­mott, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck.

Wash­ing­ton’s oth­er three Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tives — Suzan Del­Bene, Derek Kilmer, and Rick Larsen — are unfor­tu­nate­ly sid­ing with the White House, as are all four of Wash­ing­ton’s Repub­li­can U.S. Representatives.

We’re dis­ap­point­ed in all sev­en of them, and par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­ap­point­ed in Del­Bene, Kilmer, and Larsen. Larsen at least has an easy-to-find expla­na­tion of his posi­tion with a ratio­nale. There’s a page on his web­site where he out­lines his views on fast-track and responds to ques­tions he’s received.

The same can­not be said of Suzan Del­Bene and Derek Kilmer. Their offi­cial House land­ing pages do not say any­thing about fast-track or the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship, even though the House is on the verge of vot­ing on the matter.

A search of Kilmer’s web­site for TPP yield­ed only a copied arti­cle from Politi­co which men­tions a tele­vi­sion inter­view Pres­i­dent Oba­ma gave to KING5 in an attempt to sway Kilmer’s vote. A search of Del­Bene’s web­site yield­ed only this Feb­ru­ary press release tout­ing a let­ter to the U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive urg­ing that the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship have a strong envi­ron­ment chapter.

Del­Bene and Kilmer did talk to the Seat­tle P‑I’s Joel Con­nel­ly, but they are only quot­ed briefly in his sto­ry about the pend­ing vote.

Con­trast that lack of trans­paren­cy with the group that’s plan­ning to vote no (we’ll call them the work­ing peo­ple’s advo­cates). Adam Smith and Den­ny Heck pub­lished com­pelling state­ments to the front pages of their web­sites (which they also tweet­ed) announc­ing how they plan to vote.

“This trade frame­work is skewed to ben­e­fit cor­po­ra­tions; an exam­ple of this is the investor-state dis­pute set­tle­ment,” Smith said. “This mech­a­nism gives cor­po­ra­tions the pri­vate right to sue coun­tries direct­ly for what they may deem to be dis­crim­i­na­to­ry, unfair, or arbi­trary treat­ment by the host government.”

“Mean­while, work­ers do not have the same right to action should a coun­try vio­late its work­er or envi­ron­men­tal oblig­a­tions under the agree­ment. For exam­ple, if a cor­po­ra­tion per­ceives that it is neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed by a country’s enact­ment of a safe­ty or envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law it has the right to sue that coun­try. How­ev­er, vio­la­tions brought by labor or envi­ron­men­tal groups must go through a long and cum­ber­some process through the U.S. Gov­ern­ment that can take sev­er­al years.”

“I am open to trade leg­is­la­tion that enhances our abil­i­ty to bet­ter com­pete in a glob­al econ­o­my, but this approach is piece­meal and does not do enough to advance the inter­ests and poten­tial of the hard-work­ing Amer­i­cans I rep­re­sent. We can do bet­ter,” added Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck.

McDer­mot­t’s web­site does not have a state­ment up, but the Con­gress­man has been open and vocal about his oppo­si­tion to fast-track.

He speaks much more blunt­ly than Kilmer and Del­Bene in Joel Con­nel­ly’s sto­ry and is fea­tured in this Wall Street Jour­nal sto­ry about the push­back to fast-track. (The sto­ry notes that pro­po­nents of rigged trade deals are hav­ing a hard­er time sell­ing their wares on Capi­tol Hill these days.)

The Ore­gon House del­e­ga­tion is also split on fast-track, though bare­ly.

Ordi­nar­i­ly-reli­able Democ­rats Earl Blu­me­nauer and Suzanne Bonam­i­ci are join­ing less-depend­able Demo­c­rat Kurt Schrad­er and Repub­li­can Greg Walden to back fast-track. That leaves Peter DeFazio as the lone rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Ore­gon who is opposed to giv­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma trade pro­mo­tion authority.

Like Larsen, Earl Blu­me­nauer has a page promi­nent­ly fea­tured on his web­site where he explains his posi­tion and responds to ques­tions. Suzanne Bonam­i­ci’s web­site does­n’t say any­thing about the loom­ing vote. A search yield­ed only one ref­er­ence to the TPP — this town hall recap from last autumn.

Schrader’s web­site has this state­ment con­firm­ing he’ll vote for fast-track dat­ing to last month. It’s not promi­nent­ly fea­tured on his web­site, but it is accessible.

Walden’s web­site has his state­ment from ear­li­er this week back­ing fast-track.

Peter DeFazio’s web­site has a num­ber of pages that dis­cuss fast-track and the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship, includ­ing this gem from April, in which DeFazio picks apart the trade pro­mo­tion author­i­ty the White House is sell­ing.

“Sup­port­ers of this bill will tell you it’s bet­ter than fast track deals of the past with pro­tec­tions for work­ers and the envi­ron­ment — don’t take the bait,” DeFazio says.  “It rein­forces the same failed trade poli­cies of the last 20 years that have earned mul­ti-nation­al cor­po­ra­tions record prof­its and shipped good pay­ing Amer­i­can jobs over­seas.  Con­gress must not be used as a door­mat to pass bad trade deals. It’s the same raw deal for Amer­i­can work­ers and the environment.”

We’ll have a recap of the fast-track vote here once it takes place.

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  1. It is fas­cist oligarchy.

    Writ­ten by cor­po­ra­tions over the last ten years. Pro­mot­ed by ALEC. Secret and not pub­licly dis­closed, so no cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion. A rule chang­er remov­ing our basic rights.

    # by Rebecca :: June 11th, 2015 at 10:55 PM
  2. I vot­ed for the res­o­lu­tion against the agree­ment in State Com­mit­tee, how­ev­er, it is a very com­pli­cat­ed issue in my opin­ion. We should encour­age trade in an attempt to make more jobs, per­haps, labor should have a big­ger place at the table on this mat­ter. I believe that our pres­i­den­t’s inten­tions are well mean­ing and sin­cere. There has to be a hap­py medi­um on this.

    # by Mike Barer :: June 12th, 2015 at 2:13 PM
  3. By the way, that’s a very well writ­ten article.

    # by Mike Barer :: June 12th, 2015 at 2:14 PM
  4. Every Repub­li­can and Demo­c­rat, less Jim McDer­mott, vot­ed for it. 

    I think Rebec­ca nailed it.

    # by Anthony :: June 12th, 2015 at 3:30 PM
  5. Agreed — very nice arti­cle. NJ Pro­gres­sive Frank Pal­lone opposed.

    # by Linda Seltzer :: June 12th, 2015 at 5:34 PM
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