As Resistance Mounts, TPP Becoming 2016 Election's Third Rail
'Obama has to consider what his campaign to pass the TPP will do to the Democratic Party—or at least he should'
As the White House prepares for its final "all-out push" to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are being made vulnerable due to growing opposition to the controversial, corporate-friendly trade deal.
"[I]n 2016," the Guardian reported on Saturday, "America's faltering faith in free trade has become the most sensitive controversy in D.C."
Yet President Barack Obama "has refused to give up," wrote Guardian journalists Dan Roberts and Ryan Felton, despite the fact that the 12-nation TPP "suddenly faces a wall of political opposition among lawmakers who had, not long ago, nearly set the giant deal in stone."
The Huffington Post reported Thursday:
In the past month alone, 12 Republican House members who voted to approve fast-track authority for trade agreements have announced their opposition to the TPP, including Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a Senate candidate in Louisiana and the chairman of the Friends of the TPP congressional caucus. In the Senate, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), ardent free-traders facing tough reelection battles, have announced their opposition to the deal.
Not only are "[v]ulnerable Senate Republicans are starting to side with Donald Trump (and Democrats) by opposing President Obama's signature trade deal," as the Washington Post reported Thursday, but once-supportive Dems are also poised to jump ship.
To that end, in a column this week, Campaign for America's Future blogger Dave Johnson listed for readers "28 House Democrat targets...who—in spite of opposition from most Democrats and hundreds of labor, consumer, LGBT, health, human rights, faith, democracy and other civil organizations—voted for the 'fast-track' trade promotion authority (TPA) bill that 'greased the skids' for the TPP by setting up rigged rules that will help TPP pass."
Of the list that includes Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Jared Polis (Colo.), and Ron Kind (Wis.), Johnson wrote: "Let's get them on the record before the election about whether they will vote for TPP after the election."
Also on the list is Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), from whom the Communication Workers of America is reportedly withholding its endorsement due to his support for the TPP.
In an op-ed published Saturday at The Hill, Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Mark Weisbrot identifies another "special group of Representatives who can swing this vote"—"the actual lame-ducks, i.e., those who will be in office only until Jan. 3. It depends partly on how many lose their election on Nov. 8, but the average number of representatives who left after the last three elections was about 80."
Most of these people will be looking for a job, preferably one that can pay them more than $1 million a year. From the data provided by OpenSecrets.org, we can estimate that about a quarter of these people will become lobbyists. (An additional number will work for firms that are clients of lobbyists).
So there you have it: It is all about corruption, and this is about as unadulterated as corruption gets in our hallowed democracy, other than literal cash under a literal table. These are the people whom Obama needs to pass this agreement, and the window between Nov. 9 and Jan. 3 is the only time that they are available to sell their votes to future employers without any personal political consequences whatsoever. The only time that the electorate can be rendered so completely irrelevant, if Obama can pull this off.
But that is still a big "if," because we still have elections, and Obama has to consider what his campaign to pass the TPP will do to the Democratic Party—or at least he should. On the other side, he has most likely gotten the message that a failure to go all-out for the TPP would cause some big money to shift from the Democratic Party to the Republicans. The most powerful corporations in the country, as well as many actors in the "national security state," want this agreement very badly. It is a coalition of everybody who is anybody.
Except for the people.
In turn, some progressives are urging Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to publicly call on Obama and Democratic leadership not to hold a lame-duck vote on the trade deal. Especially in the wake of this week's appointment of TPP backer Ken Salazar to head her transition team, to do so would be "the perfect way for Clinton to restore liberal confidence in her on the issue of trade," reporter Daniel Marans wrote at the Huffington Post.
"If she were to do that, it would put to rest once and for all any uncertainty about her position ― and more importantly ensure that this agreement that she says is bad for the country does not become law," Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, told Marans.
Meanwhile, the Rock Against the TPP tour continues to make stops in U.S. cities, with acclaimed hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, actress Evangeline Lilly, and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune all making appearances at Friday's event in Seattle.
The tour stops Saturday in Portland, Oregon.