A key procedural vote to advance ‘Fast Track’ legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon on the Senate floor. President Obama has been lobbying Congressional Democrats in recent months to support the bill which will give his office the exclusive authority to negotiate the terms of a deal which will reduce tariffs on American goods sold to 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, and Chile.
Opposition from liberal Democrats is still strong in the Senate however, as minority leaders in Congress’ upper-chamber are threatening to vote down the motion to end debate on ‘Fast Track’ unless the bill is combined with three other trade agreements which do not necessarily enjoy bi-partisan support. Progressives, like Elizabeth Warren, oppose TPP because they fear that it will endanger financial regulation laws, and cause American job loss to countries with fewer labor laws.
To date, the actual language of the agreement has been kept classified. In that vein, Sen. Warren continued her criticism of Obama’s support of TPP yesterday, saying, “If the president is so confident it’s a good deal, he should declassify the text and let people see it before asking Congress to tie its hands on fixing it.”
Senate Republican leadership has pledged to only combine two of the trade bills for a procedural vote this afternoon, a move which ultimately delay the final vote for weeks or even months. 60 ‘yes’ votes are required to end debate and Republicans only hold a 53 seat majority.
So, it looks like President Obama will have to do a lot more lobbying of Congressional Democrats in order to get this legislation through at all. The AFL-CIO has threatened to pull support of any Senator or Congressman who votes for TPP as it currently stands. Maybe declassifying some of details of the agreement will help quell their fears which he has said are not based on “the facts”.
[New York Times] [The Hill] [Reuters]