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A new book released today by Public Citizen examines
the colorful 220-year U.S. history of how the president and Congress
have grappled with negotiating and implementing trade agreements given
the constitutional separation of powers requirements. "The Rise and
Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority" by Todd Tucker and Lori Wallach
concludes that Fast Track (the most recent mechanism Congress used to
delegate its trade powers to the president) is a historical anomaly and
counterproductive to the creation of good trade pacts.
"We wrote this book because when we did the research necessary to
give ourselves a clear picture of Fast Track and the delegation systems
before it, we found distorted, partial and inaccurate information in
existing journalistic and scholarly work," said Tucker, research
director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division and a
co-author of the book. "Much like the conventional wisdom on financial
and trade deregulation, the prevailing narrative was that Fast Track
was inevitable and necessary for the creation of trade agreements. We
show that this is false and that, on the contrary, Americans have
frequently changed the way that the executive and legislative branches
have shared trade-policy powers."
The book will be released today at an event at the New America
Foundation in Washington, D.C. It will be available in a variety of
easily readable formats accessible at FastTrackHistory.org. The
research and publication of this material was made possible by a grant
from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The book explores how the process of designing U.S. trade agreements
has changed from 1789 to the present, examining five different regimes
of trade-policy formation, the most recent culminating with the
expiration of Fast Track during President George W. Bush's second term.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is responsible for crafting
trade policy. Yet, over the past few decades, presidents have
increasingly grabbed that power through Fast Track, which allows the
executive branch to pick negotiating partners, determine trade pacts'
contents and even sign the deals - all before Congress gets a vote.
The book also notes that the trade agreements facilitated by Fast
Track delve deeply into non-tariff, non-trade areas of policy such as
investment, procurement and intellectual property. The book provides
an unprecedented documentation of the arguments that motivated both
opponents and proponents of the expansion of executive power over trade
agreements. It is the result of a three-year scholarly investigation
into hundreds of primary and secondary sources, many referenced in the
book for the first time.
The book notes that growing numbers of voters and policymakers -
including President Barack Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
- have opposed Fast Track and called for a more democratic process for
creating a national globalization strategy.
"We look forward to a future new mechanism that can reduce political
tension about trade policy and secure prosperity for the greatest
number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American
democracy in the era of globalization," said Wallach, director of
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division and a co-author of the new
book. "Now is the time to have the debate about a new trade model, and
this new book provides an essential starting point."
Advance Praise for "The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority":
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio and congressional trade-policy leader
"If you wonder why trade policy over the past several years has
reflected such narrow interests, look no further than the imbalanced
trade policymaking process that is Fast Track. There is no other
legislative mechanism with such extraordinary powers. Read this
informed and engaging account of Fast Track's history and take action."
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Democrat of Maine and co-founder of House Trade Working Group
"Most people now in Congress weren't elected when President Nixon
designed Fast Track to grab Congress' exclusive constitutional
authority over U.S. trade policy. President Obama discussed the need to
replace Fast Track with a process that ensures a greater role for
Congress. This book provides the lessons of 233 years of American trade
authority history to inform Congress' efforts to create just such a new
trade negotiating mechanism."
Alfred E. Eckes, eminent research professor in
Contemporary History at Ohio University, author of "Opening America's
Market: U.S. Foreign Trade Policy Since 1776," and former
Reagan-appointed chairman and commissioner, U.S. International Trade
"Candidates for federal office should be required to read and
address the critical issues raised in this stimulating book. Wallach
and Tucker make a persuasive case that the fast-track trade negotiating
process produces agreements weighted to the interests of corporate
giants and harmful to democratic governance and public safety. Their
argument that a more democratic trade policy process is both possible
and desirable merits the attention of public officials and thoughtful
About the authors:
Lori Wallach is the director and founder of Public Citizen's
Global Trade Watch division and co-author of "Whose Trade Organization?
A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO," published by The New Press in 2004.
One of the most widely cited trade and globalization policy experts,
Wallach has testified before Congress, federal agencies and foreign
legislatures. She graduated from Wellesley College and Harvard Law
Todd Tucker is research director of Public Citizen's Global
Trade Watch (GTW) division. He is author of dozens of reports on the
WTO, NAFTA, and various other consumer and economic issues. A graduate
of George Washington University, he received his masters in development
economics from Cambridge University.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
"These are some of the best protections of any city out there," said one trans rights advocate.
In a near-unanimous vote on Thursday, local Missouri officials approved a resolution declaring Kansas City a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people after Republican state lawmakers passed legislation that would ban gender-affirming care for minors and some adults—part of a nationwide GOP assault on trans rights.
The resolution, approved in an 11-1 vote, states that "city personnel shall not criminally prosecute or impose administrative penalties on an individual or organization for providing, seeking, receiving, or assisting another individual who is seeking or receiving gender-affirming healthcare."
"In the event any law or regulation is passed in the state of Missouri which imposes criminal punishment, civil liability, administrative penalties, or professional sanctions on an individual or organization for providing, seeking, receiving, or assisting another individual who is seeking or receiving gender-affirming healthcare," the resolution continues, "city personnel shall make enforcement of said law or regulation their lowest priority."
Kansas City Councilmember Heather Hall cast the only no vote against the measure, the passage of which local trans rights advocates celebrated as "an important first step."
"I look forward to trans leaders and Kansas City working together to address the health disparities in our communities and ways we can have sustainable funding and programming reaching all trans people," Merrique Jenson, the founder of Transformations KC, said following Thursday's vote.
\u201cIncredible!\n\nKansas city, Missouri votes 11-1 to make the city a sanctuary city for gender affirming care.\n\nIt has looked at the anti-trans laws passed in the legislature, and said, "enforce it yourself."\n\nThese are some of the best protections of any city out there.\u201d— Erin Reed (@Erin Reed) 1683857819
As The Kansas City Beaconreported Thursday, trans Missourians and their families "have been shuttling back and forth to the capitol in Jefferson City to testify against legislation aimed at banning gender-affirming healthcare."
"But for the first time on Wednesday, trans Kansas Citians flocked to City Hall to support a measure that could protect these treatments from statewide bans," the outlet added. "The LGBTQ Commission brought the resolution to the City Council in April as a way to formally preserve access to gender-affirming care before the state passes restrictions on healthcare, instead of reacting afterward."
In the coming days, Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign into law the newly passed legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors, making the state one of more than a dozen that have approved laws or policies prohibiting the lifesaving healthcare.
The Associated Pressnoted Thursday that the Kansas City sanctuary resolution passed as a judge is considering "a proposed emergency rule from Republican state Attorney General Andrew Bailey that would require adults and children to undergo more than a year of therapy—and fulfill other requirements before they could receive gender-affirming treatment."
After state Republicans passed a pair of anti-trans bills earlier this week, the ACLU of Missouri pledged to "explore all options to fight these bans and to expand the rights of trans Missourians."
"Both bans attempt to erase transness from Missouri," the group warned, referring to the state GOP's attempt to ban gender-affirming care and prevent trans girls and women from playing on female sports teams.
"Every person in the state should be alarmed by this weaponization of the government to intimidate people through the denial of basic healthcare and exclusion from extracurricular activities," the group said.
President Joe Biden "should not give in to hostage-taking," said one economist.
After meeting with congressional leaders earlier this week as the U.S. barrels toward a catastrophic debt default, President Joe Biden said that "we should be cutting spending," a remark that fueled concerns among progressives that the White House is preparing to cede to at least some Republican demands in exchange for a deal to lift the debt ceiling.
President Joe Biden has said repeatedly that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, and that the arguably unconstitutional limit must be raised without any preconditions.
But the president has also expressed openness to budget negotiations with House Republicans, who are using the threat of default as leverage to push for steep cuts to federal nutrition assistance, Medicaid, and other key government programs.
Biden insists the debt limit and budget talks are separate, but as Vox's Andrew Prokop noted Wednesday, the president is "negotiating before the GOP has released" the debt ceiling hostage.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday after meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Biden said that "he made clear... that default is not an option."
But the president added that he also "made it clear that we can cut spending and cut the deficit."
Biden offered several examples of what he would prefer to cut, such as "tax subsidies for Big Oil companies" and prescription drug costs in Medicare—budget reforms that progressives support.
House Republicans, though, are pushing for far steeper and broader cuts to government spending, specifically demanding a cap on federal spending at fiscal year 2022 levels. Such a cap would entail steep cuts to critical government agencies and programs, particularly if the Pentagon budget is shielded.
While Biden has publicly rejected that GOP demand, Reutersreported Thursday that "White House officials acknowledge that they must accept some spending cuts or strict caps on future spending if they are to strike a deal."
Lindsay Owens, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, wrote Thursday that Biden's remarks this week and growing talk of a deal on spending caps are "pretty troubling."
Owens suggested the current negotiations are beginning to look like "2011-light," a reference to the last time the GOP used the debt ceiling as leverage to enact painful spending cuts. Biden, who was then serving as vice president, was the White House's chief negotiator during that standoff, which culminated in austerity legislation that badly hampered the U.S. recovery from the Great Recession.
In a statement to The Washington Post on Thursday, Owens said that Biden "should not give in to hostage-taking."
Instead, Owens added, he should "follow the lead of the majority of Americans who vastly prefer bringing in revenue through tax increases on the rich rather than making harmful spending cuts."
\u201cHere\u2019s the full quote\n\nPossible it\u2019s a purely rhetorical shift and signals no change in policy, but as the WH pushes for a spending deal with Republicans demanding budget cuts it\u2019s worth keeping a close eye on\u201d— Jeff Stein (@Jeff Stein) 1683834247
The president was previously scheduled to sit down with congressional leaders again on Friday, but the meeting was postponed until early next week as staffers for the White House and lawmakers continue to exchange proposals to avoid a default, which would wipe out millions of jobs and potentially spark a global economic crisis.
The Treasury Department recently warned that the debt ceiling could be breached as soon as June 1.
It's far from clear whether Biden's recent comments and signals emerging from the White House indicate a substantive concession to the House GOP's crusade for spending cuts.
But as talks continue with little public evidence of progress, observers are increasingly voicing alarm over the possibility of a deal that includes victories for House Republicans who are eager to boot millions of people off of safety net programs.
"It increasingly seems like the White House has decided to cave and is trying to slowly acclimate people to it, so there's no abrupt blink followed by shock and outrage," Brian Beutler, editor-in-chief of Crooked Media, warned Thursday, pointing to the Reuters reporting. "Just slowly increasing resignation. Pretty pathetic."
Slate's Alex Sammon similarly called the White House's seeming hints at spending concessions to Republicans "a horrific development," particularly "after Republicans routinely raised the debt ceiling under Trump" and "after Democrats had a trifecta for two years and could've raised it any time."
"It's time to finally hold Norfolk Southern and the big rail companies accountable for the harm they have caused in East Palestine and Darlington Township, and the harm they continue to cause with this dangerous, reckless, and selfish behavior."
U.S. Sen. John Fetterman on Thursday demanded accountability for Norfolk Southern and other railroad companies following Wednesday night's freight train derailment in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.
Local media report nine out of more than 200 cars on a Norfolk Southern train went off the track just before midnight in the town of New Castle, 50 miles north of Pittsburgh and about 10 miles east of the Ohio border.
"This has got to end."
Fire officials said that salt, soybeans, and paraffin wax—used to make candles—spilled from the derailed cars, none of which were carrying hazardous materials. A statement from Norfolk Southern said no one was injured in the accident.
New Castle is also located about 20 miles from East Palestine, Ohio, the site of the fiery Norfolk Southern derailment and chemical burn disaster that spilled cancer-causing dioxin and vinyl chloride into the air, soil, and waterways in the vicinity of the accident.
"It's the same shit, different day from Norfolk Southern," Fetterman (D-Pa.) said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
\u201chttps://t.co/lliFDm9xzI\nAnother Norfolk Southern train has derailed, this one in New Castle Pennsylvania. This derailment is 30 minutes away from East Palestine. When is Norfolk Southern going to be held accountable for endangering public safety? #publicownership #norfolksouthern\u201d— Northeast PA DSA (@Northeast PA DSA) 1683826695
"It's time to finally hold Norfolk Southern and the big rail companies accountable for the harm they have caused in East Palestine and Darlington Township, and the harm they continue to cause with this dangerous, reckless, and selfish behavior," the freshman senator continued. Darlington Township, Pennsylvania is located about nine miles east of East Palestine.
"I'm thankful that no one was hurt and no toxic material was spilled in New Castle, but this derailment looks way too similar to the ones we've said can't happen again," Fetterman said. "This has got to end."
"I'm proud that my bipartisan bill, the Railway Safety Act, advanced out of committee yesterday," added Fetterman, who has also introduced the Railroad Accountability Act.
"This bill will finally enact commonsense rail safety procedures that would have prevented last night's derailment," the lawmaker asserted of the measure advanced Wednesday. "It's time to pass this bill on the floor and finally hold Norfolk Southern accountable."