Re-vote expected early this week
Photo: Potential Trans-Pacific Partnership members, by en:User:Japinderum, en:User:Phospheros en:User:Orser67
By Miriam Raftery
June 14, 2015 (San Diego) – The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal has stalled in the House of Representatives, after one of two measures needed for passage failed to win enough votes. Opposition came from both left and right, with even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) joining with conservative Duncan Hunter in standing up against President Obama to help defeat the proposal.
There were two bills—and both needed to pass in order for the TPP to move forward. But Speaker John Boehner has called for another vote early this week on the failed portion of the proposal.
The first part, a measure specifically to fast-track the TPP bygranting the President broad latitude to negotiate the 12-nation trade pact, would have given Congress only an up-or-down vote on the entire treaty – with no opportunity to change anything. Congress has not been allowed to read the full measure, which has been criticized for everything from labor and environmental issues to granting corporations the power to sue governments that seek to impose restrictions to protect public safety, such as limiting pollution or fracking.
The second part of the proposal ws a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program to retrain displaced workers,but that would be paid for in part through cuts in Medicare.
The TPP fast-track bill actually passed the House, but the TAA failed, so the entire package was blocked.
Among San Diego’s legislators, only Republican Congressman Duncan D. Hunter voted against both the TPP fast-track and the TAA bills. Democratic Congressional members Susan Davis and Scott Peters, along with Republican Darrell Issa , voted for both measures. Democrat Juan Vargas did not vote on either bill.
Rep. Hunter, in a letter urging House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy not to muscle through the fast-track bill, voiced concerns that it could allow the President to add other countries such as China or change labor provisions. In addition, Hunter voiced concerns over a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission that would be formed, Breitbart News reports.
Hunter warned that this would diminish the sovereignty of the United States. He wrote, ““The new Commission would be a self-governing, continuing body authorized to issue policies and regulations affecting our economy, our manufacturers, our workers, our immigration procedures, as well currency, labor and environmental practices. It is one thing to enhance executive authority with respect to a narrow set of trade policies, it is another to fast-track the creation of a new international structure before a single detail about that structure has been made available to the public.”
Rep. Peters explained his vote for the fast-track in a letter sent to supporters. “There were really good cases for both sides, and I did not arrive at this decision lightly,” he wrote. “Our economy, both in San Diego and across the country, depend on trade. Our biotech and hi-tech companies depend on exporting their goods, and as a port city, San Diego depends on access to foreign markets.
But trade only works if we set the rules. If we don’t step up, someone else like China will. We need to set the standard for how the global market operates. If we don’t, we risk the system being rigged against us to the detriment of American workers,” Peters stated, adding that Friday’s vote was not on the actual trade agreement, but on giving President Obama the authority to negotiate the agreement.
“When TPP comes up for a vote in a few months, my decision will be based on what President Obama negotiates and if he follows through on his promises,” Peters said, adding that he understands the skepticism among some of his constituents. “Trade deals have burned us in the past; many parts of San Diego are still feeling the effects of NAFTA,” he noted, adding, “But I truly believe that the best way to fix some of the problems of our past trade agreements is to create new ones with better, stronger regulations. I believe that the TPP, if negotiated correctly, can do this. “
Pelosi said she voted against the TAA, which pro-labor Democrats would ordinarily support, because “it’s the only way that we will be able to slow down the fast-track,” Huffington Post reported.
The Obama administration has tried to ram through the TPP over the objections of fellow Democrats who argued that the fast-track measure fails to protect workers, environmental and financial regulations, among other concerns. Some members in both parties have called for the administration to make text of the proposed trade deal public, not shroud it in secrecy.