Following a House vote two weeks ago that momentarily derailed fast track authority for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new vote on June 18 sends the trade deal back to the Senate, which is expected to vote Tuesday.
For fair trade advocates fearful of another disastrous deal that could cripple American jobs while rewarding the 1 percent, the need for action against the TPP has never been more urgent, said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.
“This fight is not over, and we need every good trade union member to call their senators and say 'no' to bad trade deals,” Stephenson said. “When big corporations write our rules, workers lose. When major trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors, democracy loses. If ever there was a time to reach out to your lawmakers and urge them to stand with working families, it’s now.”
When the House voted June 12 on the TPP, it was tied to funding a popular program called Trade Adjustment Assistance – which provides government assistance to retrain American workers who lost their jobs as a result of so-called free trade deals.
But there was a hitch. Supporters, mostly Republicans, proposed to fund the TAA with $700 million cuts in Medicare. Most Democratic lawmakers, who have long been the standard bearers of the TAA, balked at the move. The House rejected the deal, with 54 Republicans opposing fast track and 28 Democrats supporting it.
On June 18, TPP supporters uncoupled the TAA from the trade deal, voting 218-210 to pass fast track authority as a standalone bill – a move derided by many Democrats as a GOP maneuver to move the deal along.
“Instead of cooperation, they’ve opted to use procedural tricks to pass [fast track],” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who voted against the measure.
The same 28 Democrats who voted for fast track on June 12 voted for it again on June 18. President Obama, who previously said that he wouldn’t sign a trade deal that lacked worker protections, has reversed course.
The expected Tuesday vote would be for cloture on the measure, which – if passed – would allow for 30 hours of debate and likely vote on final passage on Wednesday.
The TPP would govern trade between the United States and 12 other Pacific-rim nations: Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam. Supporters, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and President Obama, say the TPP will expand trade with some of the world's most vibrant economies, representing close to 40 percent of world GDP.
But fast track, which was also authorized before NAFTA, would establish a process that allows no amendments and limited debate on the TPP when it is brought before Congress.
Legislators, unions, environmental and other citizens groups have been excluded from the talks, while hundreds of corporate lobbyists have been inside the discussions from the beginning. Details about the TPP have only come from drafts leaked by the website WikiLeaks.
Call your senator and say “no” to fast track: 1-855-712-8441.