With the U.S. Senate expected to take up Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, on Tuesday, the stakes are high for progressives who oppose pro-corporate trade deals.
Last week, the House passed a Fast Track bill that—unlike the Senate version passed in May—was decoupled from Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation. To move Fast Track to President Barack Obama's desk, thereby enabling him to ram through Congress mammoth international pacts like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Senate must pass its own standalone Fast Track bill.
With votes scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, anti-Fast Trackers are being urged to call their senators, while activists are also organized the #SenatorDontComeHome Twitter storm for Monday afternoon at 1 pm EDT, in which they told lawmakers to block Fast Track or risk alienating constituents.
The Senate is scheduled to take a cloture vote on that legislation on Tuesday, requiring 60 votes to advance the bill for debate. If that vote is successful, the subsequent vote, to actually pass Fast Track, would require a simple majority and is expected to come Wednesday.
At the Campaign for America's Future blog, Dave Johnson gives details about more than a dozen Stop Fast Track rallies happening across the country on Monday and Tuesday, targeting 14 Democratic senators who voted for Fast Track before it became a standalone bill.
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One of the very few "pro-trade Democrats" whose vote hangs in the balance is Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington state.
Politico profiled Murray on Monday, and reported: "Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Obama has virtually no margin for error. Of the 14 Senate Democrats who voted last month to advance the plan, he can afford to lose — at most — three. And Murray’s voice carries significant weight: As the lone Democrat in her party’s leadership who previously voted for the trade agenda, how she comes down now could influence other fence-sitting Democrats."
"When global corporations write the rules, families lose. Continue the fight! Let’s kill the Fast Track zombie that keeps rising from the dead once and for all."
—Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO
Meanwhile, The Hill focused on Sen. Elizabeth Warren's role in the Fast Track fight.
"While the trade war has waged this month in the House, Sen. Warren (D-Mass.) has taken a less public view," wrote journalist Peter Schroeder. "She’s been a key player in the background, but publicly has been more outspoken on other issues."
He continued, "Now that the fight is returning to her home turf, her allies say she has an opportunity to take a final stand on the issue. They also argue she has a unique power to galvanize the Democratic base to their cause."
Schroeder reports that Warren and her aides worked behind the scenes with House lawmakers in an effort to stymie the legislation. Now that the bill is back before the Senate, according to The Hill, Fast Track opponents "believe Warren, along with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), could help them stall the trade package — or even kill it."
Because as the AFL-CIO noted last week, "Fast Track has gotten even worse since the House got its hands on it."
In a blog post about the "zombie legislation" on Friday, the AFL-CIO's Celeste Drake explained further:
House Republican leadership loaded it up with sops to gain votes from its right wing, including provisions designed to prevent trade deals from addressing climate change and anti-immigrant provisions that could undermine attempts to create a level playing field for all workers. In a convoluted attempt to rush Fast Track into law without sending it back to the Senate, the House added these provisions to a separate customs bill. The House also weakened the trade enforcement provisions in the bill, which will cost us jobs and wages. No senator who cares about justice for immigrants, the environment or creating a level playing field for American manufacturing (or all three) should trust House promises that these issues will be fixed.
"We’re tired, but we can’t rest in our efforts to do what is right for working families," Drake wrote. "When global corporations write the rules, families lose. Continue the fight! Let’s kill the Fast Track zombie that keeps rising from the dead once and for all."
Of course, as Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy president Juliette Majot warned last week, this debate has always been about more than just trade:
If approved, Fast Track will indeed grease the skids for approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and others just like them, because that is what Fast Track is designed to do. Thumbs up, thumbs down, no amendments. What Fast Track will not do is shut up millions of Americans who will fight to ensure those thumbs point down, when the time comes, for these reasons: number one, the process is anti-democratic; number two, the trade agreements are little more than corporate charters paving the way for more corporate power, at the expense of labor, equity, the environment and sovereignty; and number three, we the people understand the first two reasons.
She concluded, as many have: "Thumbs down, way down, on the Trans Pacific Partnership."