In a win for multinational corporations and the global one percent, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly advanced Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) —ensuring for all practical purposes the continued rubber-stamping of clandestine trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The cloture motion to end debate needed 60 votes and it got just that, passing the chamber 60-37. The full roll call is here. A final vote will come on Wednesday. Having overcome the biggest hurdle, the legislation is expected to pass, and will then be sent to President Barack Obama's desk to become law.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who campaigned vigorously against Fast Track, said the vote represented a win for corporate America. "The vote today—pushed by multi-national corporations, pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street—will mean a continuation of disastrous trade policies which have cost our country millions of decent-paying jobs," the presidential candidate said in a statement.
And Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), another of the most vocal opponents of Fast Track, railed against TPA moments before the vote, accusing Congress of turning on its "moral" obligation to assist the working class.
"How shameful," Brown said. "We’re making this decision knowing that people will lose their jobs because of our action."
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Thirteen Democrats backed fast-track in Tuesday’s vote, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a major legislative victory. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) voted against the procedural motion.
The Democrats cast "yes" votes even though the trade package did not include a workers assistance program for people displaced by increased trade. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program was a part of the last fast-track package approved by the Senate in May, but became a key part of opposition to the package among Democrats in the House.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, pointed out that the vote only came about via "elaborate legislative contortions and gimmicks designed to hand multinational corporations their top priority."
Such contortions were necessary, she added, "because the American people overwhelmingly oppose these deals, notwithstanding an endless barrage of propaganda."
Indeed, response from the progressive grassroots was fast—and furious.
"We’re outraged that Congress today voted to fast track pollution, rather than the job-creating clean energy we need to address climate change," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. "It's clear this deal would extend the world’s dependence on fracked gas, forbid our negotiators from ever using trade agreements in the fight against global warming, and make it easier for big polluters to burn carbon while suing anyone who gets in the way. That’s why we’re so disappointed President Obama has taken up the banner for ramming this legislative pollution through the halls of Congress, in a way he never pushed for a climate bill."
Groups threatened political fall-out for those Democrats who voted in favor of Fast Track.
"Senate Democrats who just voted to proceed on Fast Track for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership openly betrayed the grassroots Democratic activists who helped elect them and have been exceedingly clear in their opposition to any legislation that allows more NAFTA-style trade deals to be jammed through Congress," said Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America. "The Senate Democrats who allowed Fast Track should know that this vote will be remembered, it will not be erased, and we will hold you accountable."
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, echoed that warning as she declared, "The senators who provided the margin of Fast Track victory will face angry voters in their next elections. Constituents will hold them accountable for putting the interests of transnational corporations ahead of the public."
In addition to calling out Senate Democrats who "betrayed people and the planet" by voting for cloture on Tuesday, National People's Action Campaign executive director George Goehl lambasted "the virtual silence of the leading Democratic candidate for president," which he said "shows the stranglehold corporations have over both political parties."
And Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy program at the Institute for Policy Studies, said it was clear who will benefit most if the pending deals are given final passage. Today is a "great day for the big money interests," she said following the Senate vote.