Following Tuesday's State of the Union address, in which he is expected to call on Congress to grant him greater leeway to negotiate a pair of corporate-friendly trade deals with Europe and Asia, President Barack Obama will enlist his Cabinet members to push for Fast Track trade authority on Capitol Hill.
Fast Track would speed along passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pact involving the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed deal between the European Union and the U.S. Both agreements have been criticized for the secrecy in which they are being developed, as well as their potentially negative impacts on jobs, wages, food safety, workers' rights, and public health.
According to The Hill:
President Obama is tasking every member of his Cabinet to round up votes from Democrats for fast-track negotiating power, which would give Obama leverage to complete trade negotiations by preventing Congress from amending his agreements.
About 80 House Democrats have been targeted in the effort, and Cabinet members are divvying up those names based on their personal relationships with the members.
The rest of the House Democratic Caucus, which consists of about 100 members, are seen as likely "no" votes.
Opposition also exists on the opposite end of the political spectrum. "Unabashed liberals Rosa DeLauro and Keith Ellison are finding themselves taking sides with tea party-backed Republicans Walter Jones and Duncan Hunter in the fight against a common enemy—the White House’s GOP-backed trade agenda," Adam Behsudi writes Tuesday for Politico.
Behsudi explains: "Tea party and other conservatives oppose the legislation because they say it would cede Congress’ constitutional authority over trade to a White House they don’t trust. Progressives, backed by labor and environmental groups, say the bill will only make it easier to strike new trade deals that would send U.S. jobs to countries with deficient labor and environment standards."
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Part of the White House strategy is to suggest that Fast Track authority would in fact help progressive groups achieve their goals.
For The Hill, Vicki Needham reports:
National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients is organizing the Cabinet outreach and assigning different Cabinet members to different tasks. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, for example, is expected to discuss wildlife trafficking and overfishing issues.
...One argument the Cabinet officials are making is that the U.S. will be sidelined from writing rules on trade that would protect labor groups and the environment if they don’t back fast-track and the TPP.
But such arguments are unlikely to be persuasive. In the hours leading up to the State of the Union, progressives on Twitter called on Obama and elected officials to reject Fast Track and so-called "free trade" deals in general.
What remains to be seen is whether such grassroots resistance, as well as bipartisan opposition in Congress, can defeat corporate support for Fast Track and the trade deals.
"The president seems committed to doubling down on the failed policies of the past: pushing for fast-track trade authority to help negotiate major treaties with Asian and European allies," Robert Borosage argues in an op-ed published Tuesday. "Here he will seek to enlist Republican majorities against the vast majority of his own party in Congress, with the aid of a mobilized corporate lobby. Bipartisan cooperation with this Republican leadership will be a good measure of the power of the corporate and bank lobbies."