U.S. Senate Sells Out American Workers By Passing Fast Track Trade Bill 62-37


A Trade Promotion Authority bill passed the U.S. Senate 62-37 Friday night, with 48 Republicans and 14 Democrats voting for the measure. The bill now heads to the U.S. House where it faces an uncertain future. The measure gives Congress the ability to vote up and down major international trade agreements negotiated by the White House but strips Congress of the ability to amend or filibuster such agreements. Fast track authority is designed to make it easier to push through trade agreements, and the bill was seen as a necessary step towards approving the controversial twelve nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

President Obama favors the agreement, as do a majority of Senate Republicans. However, liberal pro-labor Senators like Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have argued that the bill will make it easier for corporations to avoid worker protections and to lower wages by moving jobs overseas.

Organized labor has argued that fast track authority undermines American workers. The AFL-CIO issued a recent statement, that read:

We’ve seen the devastating cost of bad trade deals over the years, so we know that fast track trade promotion authority is not the way to ensure that the American public receives the full and thorough debate on the vast implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In stark contrast to the AFL-CIO’s assessment, President Obama described the agreement in glowing terms, stating:

Today’s bipartisan Senate vote is an important step toward ensuring the United States can negotiate and enforce strong, high-standards trade agreements. If done right, these agreements are vital to expanding opportunities for the middle class, leveling the playing field for American workers, and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire by selling goods made in America to the rest of the world.

President Obama’s rosy optimism sounded hauntingly similar to Bill Clinton’s positive appraisals for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) before he pushed it through Congress with bi-partisan support in the 1990s. However, a briefing paper by Robert E. Scott at the Economic Policy Institute noted that the optimistic predictions of President Clinton and pro-NAFTA economists never came to pass.

In his publication, “Heading South: U.S.-Mexico trade and job displacement after NAFTA“, Scott estimated that by the year 2010, U.S. trade deficits with Mexico totaled over 97 billion dollars and he estimated that the negative effects of NAFTA had displaced over 680,000 U.S. jobs. Trade agreements that encourage more imports and fewer exports tend to displace domestic workers and tighten an already tough job market while pushing manufacturing jobs out of the country where employers can exploit cheaper labor.

Unfortunately, President Obama seems to be following the path taken by former President Clinton, by aligning with multinational corporations and “free trade” Republicans rather than with organized labor. Multinational corporations who exploit cheap labor overseas, such as the Nike shoe company, will benefit from the agreement. Meanwhile, American manufacturing jobs could continue to shrink, as domestic plants find themselves unable to compete with companies who pay lower wages overseas.

The U.S. House has an opportunity to reject the bill, but given the bill’s popularity with Republican Senators, it is difficult to envision the GOP-controlled House defeating the bill. That difficulty is compounded because some Democrats are also likely to back the President in supporting the bill.

Still, the individual votes could be unpredictable. In the Senate, 48 of 54 Republican Senators voted YES. Mike Enzi of Wyoming did not vote. Of the five Republicans who voted no, Susan Collins of Maine is traditionally regarded as a moderate, but the other four are hard-line conservatives, which means the more conservative GOP House could also offer up some surprise votes. Republican Senators Rand Paul (KY), Mike Lee (UT), Jeff Sessions (AL) and Richard Shelby (AL) were the four conservatives who voted against fast track trade authority.

30 Democrats opposed the measure, along with the two Independent Senators who caucus with the Democrats, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. 14 Democrats backed the proposal. Those 14 Democrats were Michael Bennet (CO), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ben Cardin (MD), Tom Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tim Kaine (VA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Patty Murray (WA), Bill Nelson (FL), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Warner (VA) and Ron Wyden (OR).

While the fast track agreement appears to be a raw deal for American workers, there is the possibility that even if it passes, President Obama will negotiate good faith agreements with other nations, that safeguard worker protections and do not undermine American workers. Some of the more liberal Senators who voted to permit fast track authority may be operating under that assumption. However, that authority will likely be extended to future presidents as well, and there is no guarantee that fast track authority, once passed, will not empower the next Republican president to negotiate a terrible deal for American workers.

The Senators should have voted this bill down. Now the responsibility for protecting American jobs from future bad trade deals has been passed into the hands of the U.S. House. Sadly, it is hard to feel optimistic about the fate of the American worker, if he or she is now depending upon John Boehner’s Republican-controlled House to do the right thing.

50 Replies to “U.S. Senate Sells Out American Workers By Passing Fast Track Trade Bill 62-37”

  1. Farewell to living-wage, American jobs….and to our national sovereignty.

    It was fun while it lasted.

    Hello to our new Corporate Overlords….how may I slave for you?

  2. Now, do I read all this and point out the problems with this logic as I have for – well, forever, or do I just wait for the house to pass TPA, like they will and ignore the cabal?

    Choices, choices… maybe I will go for a swim instead…

  3. This has been a difficult issue to figure out. I tend to think TTP is bad. So when in doubt, I go back to my default position: If Obama’s for it, I’m against it. I never go wrong with that philosophy.

  4. And the sad part of it, Robert? Your anti-Obama “philosophy” is, based on documented evidence and successes by this president, always bad.

    Maybe you need to recalibrate your thinking.

  5. You sound like the fellow who was wrong only once in his
    life. And that was the time he thought he was wrong.
    Good luck with yer “never”. Jah bless.

  6. Uh, NSAQ? The terrifying scenario you’ve illustrated in your post is exactly what’s happening NOW.

    What living wage??

    What proof that American “sovereignty” is in danger??

    What American jobs lost that wouldn’t have been lost anyway since Congress refuses to penalize corporations for sending jobs overseas and we have NO enforcement currently in our law books to stop it? (HINT: corporations/big business are not under the control of our gov’t);

    The American worker, even with all our labor unions, is the most underpaid, overworked, “slavish” worker in the industrial world already.

    Perhaps it’s high time you recalibrate your thinking.

  7. Some on the left actually believe labor unions, no matter what, are always right.

    And that’s a fallacy, proven by the top labor unions’ own actions when they supported Keystone XL.

    The AFL-CIO and the Brotherhood of Teamsters (Hoffa’s) wrote letters to Speaker Boehner and pushed hard to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline bill that would put our environment in danger, that would make American taxpayers foot the bill for any disasters, but what would handsomely pay the Koch Bros…and for, what? 35 permanent jobs??

    If I know this was a BAD deal for Americans, how can so-called pro-labor unions be blind to it? They’re not, which makes their intentions nefarious at best.

  8. Keith? I posted a response to the very first post above, and it mysteriously disappeared. This has been happening a lot lately.

    I hope, on this progressive/liberal site, I, as a proven Liberal, am not being censored (censured, maybe?) just because my opinion differs from yours or other authors regarding the TPA and TPP?

  9. I have a folder on my desktop called “tradtors”, it is a list of the 14 Dem senators* that voted with the Rethugs to pass the TPP. I will remind people of this over and over again up to and including the day each starts their re-election campaigns. They count on the public having a short attention span, but I am not one of those people and I never forget. If, needed, I will add Dem Congress people to this list after they vote.

    *14 Democrats were Michael Bennet (CO), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ben Cardin (MD), Tom Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tim Kaine (VA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Patty Murray (WA), Bill Nelson (FL), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Warner (VA) and Ron Wyden (OR)

  10. And I am of the opinion that if the Republicans and the corporations are for it, it will not benefit the U.S., therefore I am against it. I couldn’t care less that the President is all for it.

    Apparently you, Robert, are against education, Social Security, Medicare, providing a livable wage to workers, paying women equal pay for equal work, health care for everybody because these are things the President does stand for. And you are FOR gerrymandering, taking away voting rights, going to war with Iran, letting people (especially children) go hungry, taking away a woman’s right to make her own medical decision because these are things the President is against.

    Yep, being against anything that requires any thought is just about right for conservatives.

  11. You and I are just alike, Patricia. I vote the opposite of what Obama wants. You vote the opposite of what Republicans want. Looks like our PROCESS of thinking is about the same.

  12. You are not being censored. Some comments go to spam and until we pull them out they don’t get posted. Think of it as purgatory

  13. Not at all ICH. I consider Obama’s “successes” to be failures for this country. I am not going to recalibrate my thinking any more than you are.

  14. djchefron: What does this mean? Do you control these threads? Do you work for this website? Is that what it means when others talk about you being a “host” and playing by the “house rules.” ???

  15. So cutting unemployment by half, the dow jones over 18k, more people have health insurance, the deficit is down, over 63 months of economic growth the longest in US history, under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually, the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president, 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are lower now than just about any time in the previous 50 years, we now successfully catch and deport more illegal immigrants than ever before are failures?
    And you wonder why I call you a dumbass

  16. djchefron: “I don’t control s–t as long as you behave.”

    But if I don’t behave, you will control my content. You work here, don’t you.

  17. This agreement will promote the interests of giant, multinational corporations over the interests of labor, environmental, consumer, human rights, or other stakeholders in democracy, AND FURTHER CONCENTRATE OWNERSHIP OF THE NON-HUMAN PRODUCTIVE CAPITAL MEANS OF PRODUCTION! It will export production and jobs to countries with far lower labor wages and standards while enriching the OWNERSHIP interests of the already wealthy ownership class.

    The REAL STORY is a story about the collusion among a globally wealthy ownership class to further concentrate private sector ownership in ALL FUTURE wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital asset creation on a global scale. A sorta FREE TRADE ON STEROIDS!

    See http://wp.me/p5wwCK-3Nj for my full response.

  18. Really? The President is all for TPP and I have thought about it and believe it is wrong for the country. So tell me how our thinking is the same. I am willing to admit that the President is not always right and when he isn’t I voice my opinion, but you go blindly, without thinking, against EVERYTHING he is for regardless of whether it is good for the country or not.That hardly makes our thinking the same.

  19. Ok, I had a swim, got some sun and rest. Clearing the mind and breathing is something we all have to do and on this subject we have over a week till the congress critters are back at it so everybody can take it slow.

    I am very surprised to agree with nearly everything Keith says above, and I appreciate the realism instead of hyperbole.

    I think it will pass congress, they have been saying for awhile they have the votes to do so and they don’t say that unless they do have them – most of the time it isn’t fake.

    The Unions and the Cabal against TPA are wrong. TPA is not odd, it is normal and it was a part of past republican presidents authority. And the next president, well, she will just have to use it wisely. :-)

    They are stuck in NAFTA loop.

    I think they will pass TPA in the house when they get back. TPP will pass if Obama gets a good deal. It sure can be good OR bad, but we have to wait till it is done.

    That is the real world. No soap boxes.

  20. I don’t know about passing the house. There are enough teabaggers who will not give the President the power and enough democrats who will follow the unions and vote no.

  21. oh and before someone gets upset with my wording…

    by till it is done, I mean till the deal is complete and becomes public.

    Then after a long time public it goes to congress again…

    then if good becomes law.

    The reading period for the public will be our time to decide if it sucks.

  22. I read so much I have no idea where I saw it since it was over a week ago. If I find the congress insider info that said they have the votes, I will link it.

    But I know I saw it somewhere reliable…

    now where was I last week – everywhere on the entire interwebs…

  23. The House Republican leadership says that they need more Democratic votes if they are going to pass a version of the TPP, and they’re cajoling the president to do more to round them up. They’re also thinking of adding some kind of immigration poison pill amendment to try to round up more of their own votes. If the House poisons the bill will anti-immigrant language, that, too, will have to be stripped.

    Perhaps these headaches can be ironed out in the Conference Committee between the House and Senate, assuming that the House can pass some version of the TPP, but if you are an odds-maker, you’re probably thinking that the TPP is less likely to become law than it was before the Senate acted last night.

  24. When it happens I will believe it. The clowns in the republican party couldn’t even pass their own anti abortion bill.

  25. HA! I saw the same thing early this morning and thought the same thing. Jinx.

    I am not for or against it. When Krugman sees it for 60 days and it under a microscope by the whole world, we will see.

    This is a very complicated deal and few are evaluating the whole, and most are kneejerk NAFTA stuck.

    My computer issue with this site is shock wave plug in related, I think. The vid ads make it go bonkers and I cannot move around on the page.

  26. DJ, my feelings about Krugman perhaps changing his mind when he gets to spend 60 days with experts around the world dissecting it, is it is not something in a small window. A lot of people who have creds in banking, or finance, or european trade, or business, etc. are missing a lot of the big picture of what this bill is about. And that includes most of us trying to make sense on these type boards.

    Here is an eye opening look at it as the pivot to Asia, the beginnings in Bush years, the Ash Carter view, State, as a national interest and – always in this –

    Because China.

    BIG VIEW not a union leader yelling:


  27. Right now I am neutral because I don’t know shit about this deal that’s why I post pros and cons about it. So when people take a side for something they no nothing about I just give a side eye and move on

  28. I sent a message to Dianne Feinstein a while ago to say NO and I usually agree with her.
    My other senator, Boxer, said NO

  29. Yep! You’re right. The post appeared. Thanks for the explanation, djchefron. I’ll be patient from now on.

    My most sincere apologies to Keith and to the PoliticusUSA staff for jumping to (wrong) conclusions.

  30. Adding to what djchefron articulated: we have a revitalized domestic Auto industry, and that loan, (it was not a bail out), was paid ahead of schedule. Jobs and cities/towns that produce iron ore, steel, paint, electronics, computer devices, rubber, glass, plastic, plus all the businesses in those areas where money is spent–restaurants, hotels, appliances, clothing, and many more–were all saved by that rescue loan.

    Health care costs slowing down; tens of thousands of new jobs in that field are a result of the “job-killing” ACA.

    How many illnesses and diseases were caught in time or prevented? How many lives saved? How many more birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, grandchildren are treasured because people live healthier and longer?

    Despite snarky comments by you and others, the less-than-forthright media, (to put it mildly), the unprecedented obstruction/opposition/hatred from the republican party,this President has accomplished many positive things. With class!

  31. Then after a long time public it goes to congress again…then if good becomes law.
    The reading period for the public will be our time to decide if it sucks.
    A fast-tracked trade deal has never been blocked. That train will have left the station once fast-track is adopted.

    If you believe Congress can just vote down a bad trade deal, you are either a mental monolith or you’re deliberately ignoring the unbroken cycle of history.

    Either way, I’m sure The Ministry of Propaganda appreciates your contribution.

  32. Enough has been leaked about the agreement to already know this “deal” shouldn’t be fast-tracked.

    Check out the UNPRECEDENTED “living agreement” provision in the TPP. That’s enough in itself to stop this whole thing dead in it’s tracks.

  33. Charlie, the world awaits your secret copies of the updated current version of what is in the TPP.

    And you know if the House is going to add amendments next week or cut out the ones added by the Senate – YOU ARE GOOD. Nobody on earth knows that yet.

    It is NOT done.

    Please, CC Hillary so she can get a look too. She has not seen it since she left State. Years ago, there were wikileaks bits on it. That?

    Who is dumping misinformation? Not me.

    I said historical fact and no propaganda what-so-ever. And I will be the first to hate the thing if it sucks.

    I hope it doesn’t. For all of us.

    You are either far right or far left. I don’t care which, both have their hair on fire.

  34. https://ustr.gov/tpp/outlines-of-TPP

    Scroll down to the bottom of *Key Features*.

    Jeff Sessions (who is one of the very few who actually went to the super- secret room to read the super-secret agreement) is the one that leaked how in the TPP itself, this provision is stated as being “unprecented”.

  35. I said historical fact and no propaganda what-so-ever.
    Historical fact doesn’t support your assertion that the public will get a fair chance to mobilize if it decides the TPP sucks after it’s been fast-tracked.
    Get out of the NYC-Wash corridor, and do so early and often.

    Promoters of the establishment line should explain why the American people ought to trust ANY administration and their foreign government counterparts, to revise/rewrite international agreements, or add new members to those agreements, without congressional approval.

    And who says the text of the TPP must remain secret? Under what authority?
    If there is a US law forbidding disclosure, NAME THE LAW.
    Is there anything in the Constitution that establishes secret treaties? Is there a prior treaty that states the text of all future treaties can be hidden from the People?
    I see no authority anywhere that justifies withholding the text of the TPP from those who will be forced to live by it.

  36. My NJ Senators ,Menendez & Booker voted NO! Henceforth I will no longer donate to Democratic Senatorial Committee.Why support those who support the 1%ers?

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