Fast Track to nowhere: Part 3 — Defeating Fast Track, for now

Photo by Wendy Colucci of the CNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, republished under Creative Commons license.

Photo by Wendy Colucci of the CNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, republished under Creative Commons license.

Was Fast Track really defeated by Democrats in the House of Representatives? Way to go! But wait — like a zombie, this one’s going to keep on coming back, so the fight is not over yet. Here’s how yesterday’s vote on Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) went down, and what might happen next.

Confused about the fast track trade debate? You’re not alone. The eye-glazing complexities of trade policy make a lot of people throw up their hands and give up. But you shouldn’t do that. Trade policy affects air, water, soil, plants, pollinators, immigration, workers’ rights, local control, zoning … the list goes on and on. “Free trade” legislation sells out all of our rights. This is one of a series of posts explaining, in plain language, some of the reasons “free” trade costs all of us.

Fast Track includes two parts, TPA and TAA. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which is the actual Fast Track for trade legislation, giving the president an up-or-down vote on whatever he negotiates during a specific period of time. Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is the sugar coating on the bitter pill — a companion bill that provides limited support, retraining, and help finding new jobs for U.S. workers displaced because of the trade agreement.

The Senate passed both bills with Republican, and some Democratic, support for TPA and Democratic, and a little Republican, support for TAA. The administration’s plan for the House was to pass TPA with Republican support and TAA with Democratic support.

But House Democrats, with heavy lobbying from progressive and union groups, rebelled. Led by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, they joined Republicans in defeating TAA by a 302-126 vote. In order to get the bills to the president for his signature, both House and Senate versions had to be exactly the same. That didn’t happen, so — defeat for Fast Track!

Of course, the administration can, and likely will, try again. They were surprised by the depth of Democratic resistance, but can bring TAA up for another vote as soon as next week, with massive lobbying/arm-twisting directed at individual House Democrats from the White House before then.

Another option would be to try to pass TPA alone in the Senate, without the sugar coating of TAA. House Republicans have passed a stand-alone TPA by a 219-211 vote, so if the Senate passed a stand-alone TPA, the bill could go to the president’s desk.

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