This article was originally published at Common Dreams. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The fast track trade promotion authority vote in the Senate is itself being fast tracked.
The last time fast track was in front of the Senate, members spent three weeks discussing it. This time the Senate gets just a few days.
The final Senate vote is coming up. Make a few calls and see if we can head this off.
Editor’s Note: You can use this page to find your Senator’s phone number and a sample call script.
The Senate is considering the rigged fast track trade promotion authority process that, if passed, will be used to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and future trade bills under future presidents.
Please make one more call to your senators and let them know you do not want them to vote for the Fast Track bill. If it passes the Senate it will then move to the House soon after the Memorial Day break. The House is where the real fight will take place; it is important that you start contacting your representative in Congress about this.
Fast track is being rushed through the Senate at an unusual pace, and senators are largely being denied the chance to offer amendments. Thursday the Senate voted 62-38 to halt debate soon after it began, with 13 “Democrats” joining Republicans to rush the process of pushing fast track through before the public can catch on that the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is being “greased.” Fast Track essentially preapproves TPP before the public can even see what is in the agreement.
Michael McAuliff, in Senate Advances Fast-Track For Obama Trade Deals at HuffPo, writes that even Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions wants to know what the rush is:
“We’re moving to this massive bill with very little debate even on the fast-track policy. And if that’s adopted and the bill — TPP — appears, there will be no amendments on it,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), referring to the fast-track rules that don’t allow Congress to alter trade agreements.
“I see no reason that we have to rush this,” Sessions said, adding that he has not received enough assurance from the administration that the trade deals will be good for workers.
“I sent a letter to the president of the United States asking how fast-track and the vast Trans-Pacific Partnership would impact the jobs and wages of American workers. A simple question. Would it increase or reduce manufacturing jobs and wages in the United States?” Sessions said before the vote. “Shouldn’t we know that? Is that a question improper to be asked? He’s refused to answer. I think the reason he’s refused to answer is because the answer is not good.”
One amendment that actually will get a vote is a currency amendment by Sens. Rob Portman (D-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Passing the currency amendment requires 51 votes. This amendment would add a requirement to the fast track legislation telling trade negotiators to include provisions to hold countries accountable to International Monetary Fund standards. It would add enforceable currency language necessary to ensure that foreign competitors don’t use their exchange rates to subsidize their exports at the expense of products made by American workers.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she wants to see currency rules like this in TPP and this amendment will help make that happen. CNN has the story in “Clinton finds problems with Obama TPP trade proposal”: “The Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential race said she wants to see rules included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would penalize countries for driving down the value of their currencies in order to give their exports a price advantage in the U.S. market.”
Business groups affected by unfair competition from countries that manipulate currency also want this to pass. For example, the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents Ford and GM, wants the Portman-Stabenow amendment to pass. The U.S. Business and Industry Council also issued a statement that begins:
Kevin L. Kearns, USBIC president, issued the following statement: “For far too long, our domestic manufacturers have been subject to attacks by foreign competitors using artificially low prices courtesy of undervalued currencies. As a result, the United States has seen its domestic manufacturing base hollowed out and former manufacturing centers turned into blighted cities. It is time this predatory practice, which violates IMF requirements, is eradicated. To do so, there needs to be a defined process and specific penalties in trade agreements. Portman-Stabenow is an important first step in seeing that modern trade agreements put a halt to currency manipulation.”
Make A Call, Then On To The House
Michael Stumo of the Coalition for a Prosperous America writes at Economy in Crisis, in “What to expect re: upcoming trade votes“:
We do expect the Senate to approve Fast Track this week. Do not be disappointed or discouraged if and when you hear that news.
Indeed we have always expected the Senate to approve it. While we had a brief surprise last week when the Senate defeated a cloture vote, that lasted two days and was for procedural maneuvering reasons rather than a fundamental shift. … After likely Senate approval, the House is expected to take up Fast Track in early June.
… This is a big battle. The pro-trade deficit advocates are well funded. The battle, in many ways, will continue for some time.
The point of this message is: The Senate will likely vote for Fast Track, this is expected, it should not discourage you from future advocacy, and the big battle is in the House.
It is very important to call your state’s two senators TODAY and let them know your feelings about rushing fast track through with little debate and almost no consideration of amendments.
Call the Capitol Hill operator at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senators. Or, find the direct number here.
The 13 Democrats who broke ranks and voted with Republicans should get particular attention, if you are in one of their states. These are Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
After fast track is rushed through the Senate, it will be brought up for a vote in the House soon after it returns from Memorial Day recess June 1. If you are able to attend an event with your member of Congress in person over this break please do so; please let them know you are paying attention and do not want them to preapprove TPP by voting for fast track. Otherwise give your representative’s office a call, write a letter and let everyone you can talk to know that this is coming up and is very important for the future of working people.