A trade package including Fast Track failed to pass the House on Friday. Now, according to news reports, Obama administration officials and lawmakers are considering "a list of complicated procedural options that could circumvent House Democratic opposition" in favor of Fast Track. But, as stakeholders on both sides of the issue have acknowledged over the past few days, the setback could spell doom for Fast Track and the corporate-backed trade deals the authority is designed to promote.
To buy more time, House Republicans on Monday night extended—to July 30—the possibility for the chamber to vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) again. Overwhelming opposition to TAA is what derailed the Fast Track trade package in the House last week.
"The corporate trade agenda is stalled in Congress," said Patrick Woodall, research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch. "By extending the re-vote period by six weeks, the GOP leadership and the White House gave themselves time to work their parliamentary witchcraft, arm-twisting and gift-giving to cajole Congress into caving into the corporate trade agenda. But the delay shows that there is not Congressional will to walk the plank for a corporate trade agenda that is reviled by the voters. Congress is listening to the public and recognizes the TPP and other trade deals pose genuine risks to consumers, workers and the environment."
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Fast Track, or trade promotion authority, would hand over the power to negotiate international trade deals to President Barack Obama, reducing Congress's say on such mammoth agreements to an up-or-down vote. Environmental, public health, and digital rights groups say Fast Track would weaken democracy and eliminate congressional oversight of critical details included in the trade agreements, while increasing global corporate influence.
With such criticisms in mind, the AFL-CIO is thanking Democratic lawmakers who stood with organized labor in blocking the Fast Track trade deal in the House last week. "Thank you for standing with working families," the ads state, featuring photos of the lawmakers. The labor federation, along with climate, public health, and digital rights groups, is also urging members to call their representatives to "ask him or her to hold the line on the next Fast Track vote and say NO."
Because, as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) put it in a piece published at Medium on Monday, "My colleagues and I who voted against Trade Promotion Authority are not isolationists. We’re not against trade. We understand we live in a global economy. Many members of Congress have proposed models for fair trade deals that can’t even get a debate or a vote in the Congress. But the newest trade proposal before us, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), repeats the harmful practices of past deals. It contains specific threats to working people. I will continue to vote against Trade Promotion Authority until the Trans-Pacific Partnership is fixed."
According to Ellison, lawmakers should ask themselves the following questions before voting on Fast Track:
- Does the proposed deal help or hurt Americans who work hard every day to make ends meet?
- Does the proposed deal bring back jobs to communities like Baltimore, Flint, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Oakland?
- Does the proposed deal ask our partner nations to stop jailing labor organizers; to stop human trafficking; to raise environmental protections?
Ellison concluded: "If the answer to these questions is no — I think it is a resounding no — then we should vote no."