What’s With the Trade Bill ?

UPDATE: The reaction is is now coming in.

That the Republican Establishment has lined up in lockstep with President Obama really tells you all you need to know about the minority wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Government — ever bigger, ever more secretive, ever more disdainful of American sovereignty and of the voters who put them in office. The measure has already passed in McConnell’s Senate, so its fate is now up to Boehner’s House:

Here we go !

For years we have had trade authority granted to presidents as “fast track” authority so the treaties don’t become bidding wars in Congress. The treaty has to be voted up or down as a single entity. This has been done under Democrat and Republican presidents with Republicans usually more in favor of free trade. Under Bill Clinton, we had The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA which was controversial on issues like Mexican truck drivers qualifications.

Obama has delayed a trade treaty with Columbia for political reasons for years until the GOP dominated Congress ratified the treaty in 2012, eight years after it was negotiated under Bush.

Colombia’s Congress approved the agreement and a protocol of amendment in 2007. Colombia’s Constitutional Court completed its review in July 2008, and concluded that the Agreement conforms to Colombia’s Constitution. President Obama tasked the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with seeking a path to address outstanding issues surrounding the Colombia FTA.[2] The United States Congress then took on the agreement and passed it on October 12, 2011. The agreement went into effect on May 15, 2012.

At present President Obama is asking for “fast Track Authority” and may finally get it but the opposition is different this time.

The House will vote Friday on a bill that would give fast-track trade authority to President Barack Obama, a measure likely headed for passage in a close vote after months of lobbying by the White House and business groups.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is majority leader, set out in a memo to lawmakers a two-day vote schedule designed to solidify support of Democrats who will back the bill. The House begins Thursday with a measure to promote trade with poorer countries.

Not all Republicans are on board, many because much of the bill is secret.

Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, there are around 30 major “chapters” being negotiated, many of which would reshape the rules and legal environment for business in the 21st century. Only a few of these 30 chapters directly involve “market access,” such as tariff rates and quota restrictions. Many more deal with cross-border investment, investor-state relations and international business regulation. Fast-track authority granted now would enable the administration to negotiate fundamental changes in business law and regulation without democratic scrutiny of the deals until it’s too late.

Both left and right are concerned about the secrecy. There have been disclosures of alleged portions of the bill.

The latest trove of secret trade documents released by Wikileaks is offering opponents of the massive deals currently being crafted by the Obama administration more fodder to show that such agreements can impact United States laws and regulations.

The latest leak purports to include 17 documents from negotiations on the Trade In Services Agreement, a blandly named trade deal that would cover the United States, the European Union and more than 20 other countries. More than 80 percent of the United States economy is in service sectors.

According to the Wikileaks release, TISA, as the deal is known, would take a major step towards deregulating financial industries, and could affect everything from local maritime and air traffic rules to domestic regulations on almost anything if an internationally traded service is involved.

Supporters, like the Wall Street Journal, which is using ad hominem style on opponents, are not addressing the arguments. The comments to the Journal article show it is not working.

A big free-trade vote is headed for the House floor as soon as Friday, and opponents have launched a honeypot operation to ply the dumber or more partisan Republicans into defeating the bill. Protectionists on the right claim that President Obama can’t be trusted, and their last gasp is to claim the bill includes secret new immigration powers that are nowhere in the bill.

I was not the only commenter who asked how they know this since the bill is secret. Supporters say the concerns are unfounded.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), pointed to the fast-track bill as a way to ensure people get to see what is in the deals before they pass, noting that under fast track, the president would have to unveil each proposal and wait for two months before Congress could vote on it.

“If secrecy is a concern, TPA is the solution,” Buck said. “For the first time, it will ensure a trade agreement is public and posted online for 60 days before it can be sent to Congress.”

If so, why is the bill a secret ?

This is the president who famously said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

The problem seems to be a fundamental one of trust. After the Obama amnesty, who thinks he will respect the Constitution on trade agreements ?

19 thoughts on “What’s With the Trade Bill ?”

  1. I saw an interview with McConnell about this secrecy question. He claims it isn’t finished being written. When it is finished, everyone will have a chance to read it. We’ll see.

  2. Ryan said that opportunity will come AFTER it has passed. He sounds just like somebody else we know.

    “It’s declassified and made public once it’s agreed to,” Ryan said of Obamatrade in Rules Committee testimony on Wednesday during questioning from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX)

    Oh Oh.

  3. The treaty is secret. It is a felony to reveal its contents and exact wording.

    If the treaty is passed, while it is a secret, it will replace any law that conflicts with the terms of the treaty – ie. federal law, state law, local law.

    Will it become a secret set of brand new laws replacing our current laws, with secret courts and secret police to enforce it?

    Will Americans be allowed to know what is legal and what is illegal under this secret law?

    Secret laws are bad idea. Will American be allowed to emigrate – vote with their feet? And take their money with them?

  4. I hope and pray it gets torpedoed — for now. I do not trust anything that this evil President and this spineless, supine Congress coughs up. They seized of healthcare and the Internet through secret compacts secretly arrived at. Not one more inch.

  5. Your corporate overlords demand this so no country can oppose their methods. No countries environmental laws, for instance, will overrule their agreement.

    Thanks a lot America. It’s your particularly broken form of government that has generated these powerful vampires. It’s harder for them in a normal country.

  6. ‘Ryan said that opportunity will come AFTER it has passed. He sounds just like somebody else we know.

    “It’s declassified and made public once it’s agreed to,” Ryan said of Obamatrade in Rules Committee testimony on Wednesday during questioning from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX):’

    Mike K. – Thanks for reminding us that Drudge got this wrong, as he sometimes does.

    As that quote makes clear, the treaty is being negotiated and, since the negotiations aren’t finished, we can’t see it. (That’s not unusual with treaties.)

    But when they are finished — and before there is any vote on it — we can see it.

    The current vote is not on the treaty, but whether Congress will, as it has for most recent free trade agreements, give it a straight up or down vote.

    That isn’t that hard to understand, is it?

  7. For the record, right now, I would be inclined to vote for the “fast track” authority — and against the agreement.

    (I’m dubious about any agreement that long, with that many nations. But I am willing to wait to see it before I decide my position.)

  8. The concern, I think, is that once negotiated, will Obama observe the Constitutional duty for Senate ratification or will he make other arrangements that are external to US Senate control. Remember Kyoto was negotiated by Gore and turned down 95-0 but that was not the end of it.

    It is unfortunate that the Clinton Administration ignored the Senate’s 95-0 vote on S.Res. 98, or the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, but the conditions outlined in that resolution remain the guideposts for U.S. international climate change policy.

    I would also remind my colleagues, and this frequently gets forgotten in the discussion, perhaps even more significant than the 95-0 vote was that the Byrd-Hagel Resolution had 65 bipartisan cosponsors.

    As we know, the Byrd-Hagel Resolution was very clear. It called on the President not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, or any other international climate change agreement, unless two minimum conditions were met.

    First, S.Res.98 directed the President not to sign any treaty “…unless the protocol or agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period.” The message was simple. Yet as we know, the Kyoto Protocol does not include a single developing nation. These are the very nations, such and China and India, that will soon lead the world in manmade greenhouse emissions. Any treaty that exempts them from participation is folly.

    Second, the Resolution stated the President should not sign any treaty that “…would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.” The Kyoto Protocol would have legally bound the United States to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels by the years 2008 to 2012. As President Bush stated in February, this would have cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and resulted in the loss of 4.9 million jobs.

    The Clinton Administration never submitted it to the Senate for debate and consideration. I suspect it is because they knew what is still true today – if put to a vote in the Senate, the Kyoto Protocol would face resounding defeat.

    That was Hagel of all people.!

  9. Reading this (and damn near everything else lately) my thoughts turn to Lexington Green’s post, about how things will iron out, etc. Jeez, I hope that guy is a prophet.

  10. Taranto is trying to push back today with this piece but Obama is such a liar that there may be real trouble getting enough GOP votes.

    The audio of the interview makes it clear that Sessions is, and knows he is, referring to TPP, not TPA. The Breitbart writer conflates the two—an easy cognitive error to make given the similar abbreviations. (There’s also a tangentially related program called TAA, which—thanks for small blessings—is not necessary to describe here.)

    In fact, there is nothing secretive about the Trade Promotion Authority bill. The full text is on Congress’s website.

    With any other president, even Carter or Clinton, I would accept this at face value but this is Obama and we cannot trust him to do anything honestly.

    I just don’t know if he is even on America’s side in anything. I’m usually not into conspiracy theories.

  11. More here as this is coming to a head.

    In a scene all too typical in present day Washington, the culmination of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, along with the push for passage of related legislation such as Trade Promotion Authority (or Fast Track) have set off a lobbying frenzy.

    While liberal organizations and members of Congress deride the TPP as the biggest boondoggle since NAFTA and President Obama defends it as “the most progressive trade treaty ever,” the influence peddlers who populate K Street see opportunity.

    Policy makers aren’t simply facing a lobbying barrage from the typical slate of domestic interest groups. Foreign governments are running sophisticated operations to influence Congress and gather intelligence in Washington as the negotiations proceed.

  12. I am very angry with the Republicans in Congress. They have one job, which is keep Obama under control, and they have completely abandoned it.

  13. Maybe Ryan and the WSJ are right and the TPA is non-binding but nobody trusts Obama and he has no interest in the welfare of the American people, as I see it.

  14. I see a good deal of misinformed hysteria among opponents.

    Neither the text of the TPA nor the text of the treaty (if any) will be secret.

    The TPA allows the President or his representatives to negotiate the treaty in private. Once agreement is reached with the other parties to the treaty, the proposed text will be published. No part of the treaty will come into force until ratified by Congress, which cannot happen for at least 60 days after the treaty is published.

    So all this talk of secret laws and secret treaties is erroneous.

    There is one serious danger – Obama may put language into the treaty implicitly enacting policies such as gun control or open borders that could never pass Congress on their own, but which could not be excluded from the treaty under the TPA’s all-or-nothing rule. I don’t trust Obama not to try such piggybacking.

    The question is whether such distrust justifies denying authority previously granted to other Presidents to negotiate similar accords which have been very beneficial. A compromise might be to provide for confidential oversight of the negotiations by a select group from Congress, or to insist that the negotiators be a bipartisan group (and not just by party label).

  15. This is going to be close and I don;t know it will go as this president and this Congress are not trusted to do anything in secret.

    Even people like me who are always on the side of free trade feel this way. I don’t trust this president and I do not trust this Congress. They have done little to earn my trust, and much to fritter it away. Without being able to read the pact — “trust, but verify” as another president like to say — we have every reason to suspect it’s been larded it up with crony protections for the well-connected.

    That’s from a supporter of free trade.

    The first is that Obama is unique in my political lifetime of having no real friends on Capitol Hill. He has idealogical allies, in as much as progressives have an ideology beyond legislatively taking whatever they can get their hands on, but he has no friends. Thanks to Obama’s “my way or the highway” attitude, there’s no one in Congress he can call on the phone and say, “This is important to me. This is important to the country. How can we get this passed?” Obama has never cultivated those relationships, and now when he needs friends he finds there’s no one there to take his call, and he has to make an unscheduled appearance at a baseball game just to get some attention.

    I don’t think he has any friends, period. He is a unique figure in American political history. He had no record. A lot of what he lists as accomplishments were not real or not his.

    t’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

    Republicans controlled the Illinois General Assembly for six years of Obama’s seven-year tenure. Each session, Obama backed legislation that went nowhere; bill after bill died in committee. During those six years, Obama, too, would have had difficulty naming any legislative ­achievements.

    Then, in 2002, dissatisfaction with President Bush and Republicans on the national and local levels led to a Democratic sweep of nearly every lever of Illinois state government. For the first time in 26 years, Illinois Democrats controlled the governor’s office as well as both legislative chambers.

    The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James “Pate” Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.

    Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama’s. He became Obama’s ­kingmaker.

    Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio ­program.

    I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:

    “He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'”

    “Oh, you are? Who might that be?”

    “Barack Obama.”

    Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

    No friends.

  16. It’s OK, though, cuz they’ll salvage it next week.

    Hoping to salvage what could be a key part of his legacy, Obama dashed to Capitol Hill before the vote Friday for a rare early-morning meeting with Democrats. But amid fears that a trade deal will hurt American workers, even Obama’s dramatic personal intervention failed to generate the Democratic votes needed to bolster his unusual alliance with pro-trade Republicans.

    The White House dismissed the vote as a “procedural snafu” and vowed to salvage the trade legislation when the House vote again next week.

    Lots of arm twisting this weekend.

  17. Rereading that LA Times piece, the TPA squeaked through but the Democrats voted down a bill that was part of the package.

    A bill to give the president fast-track authority to negotiate future trade deals was approved by a 219-211 vote.

    Interesting strategy. The GOP is acting dumb on this.

    It remains unclear if next week’s vote will bring any different result. Republicans leaders say they are unlikely to sway many more than the 86 GOP lawmakers who voted Friday in favor of the retraining assistance program. Most conservatives criticize the program as wasteful government spending and Republicans don’t want their votes to be used against them in a primary challenge.

    I think this sounds just stupid. Vote against the TPA or not.

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