Prove it. Let the American voters, the press, and the global public see and read the fine print of this so-called "free trade" deal.
That's the basic message contained in a new statement released by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) after President Obama said earlier this week that she and other opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were "wrong" when it came to their objections to the pending 12-nation agreement.
"We’ve all seen the tricks and traps that corporations hide in the fine print of contracts. We’ve all seen the provisions they slip into legislation to rig the game in their favor. Now just imagine what they have done working behind closed doors with TPP." —Sen. Elizabeth Warren"The Administration says I'm wrong – that there’s nothing to worry about," Warren wrote in a blog post addressed to constituents and the general public on Wednesday. "They say the deal is nearly done, and they are making a lot of promises about how the deal will affect workers, the environment, and human rights. Promises – but people like you can't see the actual deal."
Warren's statement came as members of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday evening—despite an attempt by Sen. Bernie Sanders to slam the brakes on the process—voted to pass trade promotion authority, or Fast Track, that would give President Obama and his administration the ability to negotiate the final terms of the TPP (as well as a similar deal with Europe), while relegating the congressional role to "all or nothing" up-or-down votes on the trade pacts.
Passed by a vote of 20-6, the Fast Track measure received support of seven Democrats on the committee and all but one Republican. In addition to Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), who co-sponsored the bill, the other Democrats who voted in favor of Fast Track were Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Tom Carper (Del.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Michael Bennet (Colo.).
In his recent comments, Obama has called the TPP the "most progressive trade deal in history," but critics like Warren have responded by saying if that is true—if the deal is so great and wonderful—why won't the administration release the details so the American public can see for themselves? Though lawmakers have received numerous briefings and can see draft versions of the agreement, they are forbidden from disclosing the details of what it contains.
So why hasn't the deal—other than through bits and pieces of un-sanctioned leaks—been made available to the general public even though corporate interests have had a seat at the table throughout the multi-year negotiating process? According to Warren, and despite assurances from Obama and others, the reason is simple: "We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it."
For more than two years now, giant corporations have had an enormous amount of access to see the parts of the deal that might affect them and to give their views as negotiations progressed. But the doors stayed locked for the regular people whose jobs are on the line. If most of the trade deal is good for the American economy, but there’s a provision hidden in the fine print that could help multinational corporations ship American jobs overseas or allow for watering down of environmental or labor rules, fast track would mean that Congress couldn’t write an amendment to fix it. It’s all or nothing.
Before we sign on to rush through a deal like that – no amendments, no delays, no ability to block a bad bill – the American people should get to see what’s in it.
Sen. Warren also appeared on The Rachel Maddow show on Wednesday night to explain her opposition. When mentioned by Maddow that the White House has now promised that there would be a "public comment period" after the TPP was approved by Congress but before President Obama signs it, Warren laughed out loud. "They're asking [Congress] to vote now on greasing the skids," Warren said in response, "so that we give up any chance to be able to amend it, any chance to be able to block it, any chance to be able to slow it down. [The White House is saying,] 'Give all that up and then you'll get to see the deal on the other side.' I just don't think that's reasonable."
With a separate vote on Fast Track scheduled for Thursday in the House Ways and Means Committee, the debate in Congress—and across Capitol Hill—has now reached a fevered pitch.
In extended comments from the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Sanders explained his ongoing opposition to TPP and his attempt, though only briefly successful, to slow down the legislative push by TPP proponents who are currently moving as fast as they can to ram the deal through:
And as Sen. Warren concluded in her latest statement, "We’ve all seen the tricks and traps that corporations hide in the fine print of contracts. We’ve all seen the provisions they slip into legislation to rig the game in their favor. Now just imagine what they have done working behind closed doors with TPP. We can’t keep the American people in the dark."