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.)
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.