Democratic Trade War: Obama Says Warren 'Wrong' on TPP as Reid Says 'Hell No' to Fast Track
Split among Democratic lawmakers front and center as push for corporate-friendly trade pact heads for key votes in Congress
President Obama on Tuesday evening said that progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who have called out the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement for being a corporate-power grab and have vowed to defeat legislation designed to ram it through Congress are simply "wrong" when it comes to the pending deal between the U.S. and 11 Asian and Pacific nations.
Specifically singling out Sen. Warren for her steadfast opposition, Obama defended the TPP in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews that aired Tuesday evening.
"I love Elizabeth. We're allies on a whole host of issues, but she's wrong on this," Obama said about the deal.
In op-ed earlier this year, Warren condemned the TPP for its inclusion of a provision known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, which would allow private corporations to sue governments if they believe laws or regulations are impeding their ability to make profits or adequately compete in a market. "The name may sound mild, but don't be fooled," argued Warren. "Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty."
And last week, Warren spoke at an anti-TPP rally sponsored by the AFL-CIO where she told the crowd: "Are you ready to fight any more deals that say 'we're going to help the rich get richer and leave everybody else behind'? Workers have to fight back. I’m proud to be with you and I’m going to be with you all the way."
On Tuesday, Senator Harry Reid, the top-ranking Democrat in the Senate, voiced his strongest opposition yet to pending bills in Congress that would grant the Obama administration what is known as Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track, which would give the White House power to finalize the terms of the deal without oversight or input from lawmakers. If Fast Track is approved, the trade deal would receive only an up-or-down vote in Congress without the ability to make changes.
"You couldn’t find a person to ask this question who feels more negatively about it than I do," Reid told reporters after being asked whether he supports Fast Track for the TPP. "So the answer is not only no, but hell no."
The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the Fast Track measure, introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
As Politico notes on Wednesday, congressional approval of Fast Track "is seen as integral to both reaching a bilateral agreement with Japan and bringing home the 12-nation TPP agreement — the largest trade deal in U.S. history. But an indication that the fast-track bill doesn’t have enough votes could deal a blow to the negotiations."
For critics of TPP, passage of Fast Track is basically seen as pre-approval of TPP itself.
On Monday, approximately a thousand people representing a coalition of public advocacy groups, environmentalists, and labor unions marched to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to voice their strong opposition to both TPP and Fast Track. At a rally preceding the march, political activist Jim Hightower said, "The TPP isn't a trade deal. It is a corporate coup d'etat that is about to be rammed down the American people’s throats. It would make us poorer and less free and we the people aren’t going to stand by and let it happen."