As Fast Track Vote Approaches in House, Democrats May Have Last Word

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As Fast Track Vote Approaches in House, Democrats May Have Last Word

Tight vote expected this week as alliances over presidential authority bill remain up in the air

The U.S. House of Representatives may vote on Fast Track legislation as soon as this week. (Photo: Stop FastTrack/flickr/cc)

The U.S. House of Representatives is gearing up for a vote on the contentious legislation that could grant President Barack Obama increased power to speed so-called "trade" deals through Congress, and its fate is still up in the air as foes and allies draw their battle lines.

Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, passed the U.S. Senate last month, but faces a much tougher fight in the House. Strong opposition comes from progressives and other critics who worry that Obama will use Fast Track to pass agreements like the pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

As Common Dreams previously reported:
[T]he Fast Track bill would grant Congress an up-or-down vote on Obama's trade deals, but prohibit amendments or a filibuster in the Senate. The authority is seen as a necessary step in the president's bid to finalize the highly secretive [TPP], which continues to amass foes on many fronts.

So far, 128 Democrats in the House have come out against Fast Track, with some of the most outspoken opposition coming from Keith Ellison (D-Mich.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Donna Edwards (D-Md.).

As The Hill explains, "Democratic support will be vital to the fate of the measure, as GOP leaders don't have the 217 or 218 votes — pending a replacement for Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) — to pass it through the lower chamber on their own."

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Many Republican lawmakers who support TPP are nonetheless opposed to Fast Track as they are unwilling to vote in favor of granting Obama more power.

Ahead of the vote, which could come as soon as this week, Fast Track opponents—which include labor, democracy, and civil rights groups, among others—are making a concerted push against the bill by staging a series of actions targeting undecided representatives. That includes swarming Capitol Hill with phone calls and petitions and holding rallies outside of representatives' district offices across the country. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) are also expected to lobby House Democrats.
Chief among those targets is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "If Nancy Pelosi comes out against Fast Track, that will help give those Democrats important cover to stand up to the rich and powerful and stop this bad deal," said Jim Dean, the head of Democracy for America, in an email to members.
"The urgency of these actions highlights the commitment working families have to defeating Fast Track. Their actions clearly show that they will not stand for another trade deal riddled with unfulfilled promises," said AFL-CIO director of communications Eric Hauser in a statement on Monday.

Fight for the Future, a civil liberties organization, on Monday warned that Fast Track is a "death sentence for democracy."

"If Congress passes 'Fast Track' authority, it will apply to the TPP, TISA [Trade in Services Agreement], TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership], and any other agreement President Obama or the next president negotiates," Fight for the Future said.

The Hill continues to update its list of House leaders and their stances on Fast Track.

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