Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Anti-Fast Track actions continued in Washington, D.C. on Monday. (Photo: @BXEAction/Twitter)

Get Ready for Round Two: GOP and White House Work to Revive Fast Track

"Let's be clear, we do not need a 'do over' vote for Fast Track, we need an entire 'redo' of U.S. trade policy," says green group Friends of the Earth

Deirdre Fulton

Even as they celebrated last week's quasi-victory against clandestine, corporate trade deals, civil society groups warned the fight over Fast Track was not over.

They were right.

Indeed, Friday's defeat of Fast Track, or trade promotion authority, could be reversed as early as this week, with the U.S. House of Representatives reportedly considering a number of options for reviving the legislation. As Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger wrote in an op-ed published Monday at Common Dreams, Friday's vote was "only Round One."

"The unholy trio of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who has vowed to keep any of Obama’s nominees from being confirmed), Speaker of the House John Boehner (who has thwarted just about every Democratic legislative proposal of the past several years), and President Obama (a Democrat, in case you are having trouble remembering) are as one in a desperate effort to rescue their Frankenstein-like creation," Moyers and Weisberger wrote.

Stop!

We Interrupt This Article with an Urgent Message!

Common Dreams is a not-for-profit news service. All of our content is free to you - no subscriptions; no ads. We are funded by donations from our readers. This media model only works if enough readers pitch in. We have millions of readers every month and, it seems, too many take our survival for granted. It isn't. Our critical Mid-Year fundraiser is going very slow - only 561 readers have contributed a total of $21,000 so far. We must raise $29,000 more before we can end this fundraising campaign and get back to focusing on what we do best.
If you support Common Dreams and you want us to survive, we need you.
Please make a tax-deductible gift to our Mid-Year Fundraiser now!

Congressional rules required that the House approve both Fast Track and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in order for the overall trade package to move forward as it did in the Senate. Thus, Friday's overwhelming "No" vote on TAA—which went down 126-302—meant defeat for those angling to hand over trade negotiating power from Congress to President Barack Obama.

Many Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), voted against TAA in an express effort to derail Fast Track.

Writing for Electronic Frontier Foundation, Maira Sutton described the outcome as "a strong signal that even these powerful interests and politicians could not outdo the massive popular opposition that we have all demonstrated against Fast Track and backroom corporate deals."

But some warn that such opposition risks being overcome by procedural gimmicks. As Sutton further explained:

Not willing to give up, the Republican House leadership voted to force yet another vote on TAA next week. If TAA passes next week, all of these parts could still move together as a single package, straight to the President's desk. If the TAA fails next week, then Fast Track will move back to the Senate to see if it can pass without TAA—giving us another chance to oppose it.

Now it's going to take somewhat of a miracle for the President and House Republicans to change their mind on TAA by such a large margin (around 180 votes) by Tuesday—that's their deadline on holding that second TAA vote. But we know that the White House and proponents of these secretive, undemocratic agreements are willing to do almost anything to pass these deals with even less oversight from Congress.

Politico reports on some of the options available to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his pro-Fast Track leadership team:

Boehner could schedule another vote on TAA for Tuesday, but under the current legislative rules, he needs to make a decision by Monday afternoon. Even if he decides to go ahead with another vote, it’s unlikely to succeed. He would have to flip roughly 75 Democratic votes.

The speaker could also try to pass fast-track authority on its own, without TAA attached. But at least some of the 29 Democrats who voted for fast track might oppose the legislation if help for workers displaced by trade isn’t part of the package. Senior aides doubt the Senate can pass a fast-track bill without the job training piece.

Another alternative for Boehner would be to try and combine TPA and TAA into one bill, but GOP leadership sources say that would not pass the chamber.

A less plausible option would be to try to insert TAA into another must-pass bill. But Democrats seem ready to oppose any legislation that includes TAA.

Of course, none of these options would make corporate-friendly trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) more appealing to progressives who oppose such pacts for their negative impacts on the environment, jobs, and democracy.

"Let's be clear, we do not need a 'do over' vote for Fast Track, we need an entire 'redo' of U.S. trade policy," said Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth in a statement on Monday.

Members of the EU Parliament on Monday added their voices to the chorus of opposition to Fast Track, urging U.S. legislators—like these 28 Democrats who voted for Fast Track—not to abdicate their responsibility to constituents. 

"It is clear that TPP and [TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] are far reaching treaties which would have deep consequences for all countries involved and their citizens, and it is crucial that different interests are taken into account, which can only be done by democratically elected representatives," the letter read. "However, the proposed Fast Track Package would allow the Administration to legislate bypassing the will and opinion of Congress, undermining the principle of separation of powers. So is the current situation in the European Union, whereby the European Parliament has no voice in the negotiations led by the European Commission."

The 42 signatories continued: "We, members of the European Parliament, have never been asked if we wanted to allow the executive branch to negotiate without regard to our position. Our voice and the voices of those we represent are ignored. On the other hand, you, the members of Congress of the United States, have the opportunity to preserve that constitutional right, and we urge you to keep it."

That window of opportunity is swiftly shutting, however.

In her analysis of the congressional machinations, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch director Lori Wallach noted that while the path to enactment of Fast Track remains muddy, "the corporate coalition, White House and GOP leaders remain hell bent on finding it."

"The final chapter for Fast Track," she wrote, "will be written in the coming weeks."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Despite Housing Crisis, Mississippi May Return Up to Millions in Federal Rent Aid to DC

"For them to suggest people like me aren't working? It's a slap in the face," said one woman affected by the end of the pandemic assistance program. "It's very insulting and degrading."

Brett Wilkins ·


80% of US Voters Across Party Lines Support Expanding Social Security

"With Republicans threatening to cut benefits—and worse, eliminate the program entirely—Dems need to make clear they're fighting to protect and expand benefits."

Jessica Corbett ·


Rich Nations Again Accused of Vaccine Hoarding as UK OKs Moderna Omicron Booster

"While countries like the U.K. buy updated vaccines for their fourth doses, people in low- and middle-income countries are fighting today's variants with yesterday's vaccines."

Brett Wilkins ·


With Trumpian Claims of Cheating, Starbucks Demands Halt to Union Elections

"Unfortunately, it's now in vogue for the losers of some elections nationwide to attempt to reverse elections by any means they think are necessary," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jake Johnson ·


Richest Country on Earth to One of Its Poorest: We're Keeping the Money We Stole From You

A foreign affairs columnist called the move by the Biden administration a "shortsighted, morally unconscionable, and potentially calamitous decision for a country on the cusp of universal poverty."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo