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Senate GOP Fast Tracks Free Trade


November 12, 2014

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Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says passing “fast-track” authority legislation is one of his top legislative goals in 2015.
Photo: Gage Skidmore

The Republican capture of the U.S. Senate has put fast track legislation at the top of Congress’s agenda in 2015.

“Most of [President Obama’s] party is unenthusiastic about international trade. We think it's good for America, and so I've got a lot of members who believe that international trade agreements are a winner for America," said likely incoming Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell Nov. 5.

Fast-track legislation would give the president exclusive authority to negotiate free trade agreements without input from Congress. Fast track critics, including labor unions, consumer groups and environmentalists, say that giving representatives the power only to make an up-or-down vote on trade deals as big and complex as the Trans-Pacific Partnership is undemocratic .

The TPP is a NAFTA-like free trade agreement between the United States and 12 other Pacific-rim nations, including Vietnam and Singapore.

Negotiations on the agreement have been held in secret, attended only by government trade representatives and lobbyists from some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world.

The only details about the TPP come from drafts leaked by the website Wikileaks.

They reveal that the TPP would:

  • Allow investors to sue nations over child-labor and safety laws

  • Ban “Buy America” policies that prioritize the use of domestically-manufactured goods on government-funded projects

  • Raise health care costs by preventing governments from importing generic pharmaceuticals

  • Weaken American manufacturing by giving nations like Japan, which engages in currency manipulation to make their exports cheaper, wider access to U.S. markets

  • Majority Leader Harry Reid opposed giving President Obama fast-track authority, stymieing the legislation.

  • But incoming leader McConnell says he plans to make it a priority for Senate Republicans.

As the New Republic reports:

Reid has refused to give Obama fast track trade authority, even though it likely would pass the Senate. That would change with Mitch McConnell as majority leader. He would side with the president and end Reid’s obstruction.

House Republicans also endorsed fast track, with some representatives criticizing the president for not doing enough to get it passed.

Click here to let your representative know that you oppose fast track.