Fast-Track Trade Authority
Despite the United States operating for years under Constitutional guidelines which prevented any one leader from dictatorial control over our trade policies, the president is now asking for fast-track trade authority to push new agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress. Sources say that Congress will be voting to give the president unconstitutional fast track trade authority as soon as possible! The goal is to pass it before the end of this year. In late October, 2013, Senate Finance committee leaders Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Max Baucus (D-MT) called once again for handing over their Constitutional duties to regulate trade to the president.
This would be the final nail in the coffin for U.S. sovereignty. It’s the same process used to push through trade agreements with South Korea (KORUS), Colombia and Panama, which have been disastrous for the United States.
According to economist Pat Choate, fast-track authority;
- Allows the President to select countries with which to enter into trade agreements, set the substance of the talks and then sign those pacts without prior Congressional approval.
- Allows the President to negotiate and include in these trade agreements not only tariffs and quotas, but also changes in federal, state and local laws on taxes, food and health safety, patents, copyrights, trademarks, immigration, Environment, Labor standards, and Buy America provisions, among many other issues.
- Creates a Presidential advisory system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the President. These advisors have access to confidential negotiating documents that are kept secret from most members of Congress and the public.
- Empowers the President to draft the agreements to implement legislation without Congressional input.
- Requires the President to notify Congress 90 days before signing and entering into an agreement, but gives the President unlimited time to submit the implementing bill.
- Requires House and Senate Leaders to introduce the President’s bill on the first legislative day following the President’s submission.
- Requires that the legislation be discharged from Committee 45 days after submission.
- Requires a floor vote 15 days after the bill is discharged from Committees.
- Allows only 20 hours of debate in each House.
- Prohibits any amendments either in Committee or during the floor debate.
- Eliminates several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.
- Prevents a Senate filibuster.
- Requires only a simple majority vote in each House for enactment.
- Embeds these changes in U.S. law into a treaty that requires the 100 percent approval of all other signatory nations before Congress can revoke or change their content.
“These trade pacts will have the effect of a treaty, though the Constitution requires a two thirds majority vote by the Senate for the United States to enter into a treaty.” – Pat Choate
The agreements President Obama wants to push, according to leaked documents, take the worst aspects of our old agreements and apply them to even more competitor countries, but no one knows for sure as it is being done secretly by the paid lobbyists of giant corporations. Past agreements have proven that under “free trade,” scores of jobs are lost due to a flood of cheap imports that put American companies out of business or force them to outsource their manufacturing to stay competitive.
Why should we believe that fast tracking the TPP will be any different? It will have all the damaging aspects of past agreements, and access to our economy will be extended to even more low-wage, low-regulation countries that can ship their cheap goods into our country, tariff- and duty-free. It may be even more damaging than past agreements, but we can’t know for certain because the negotiations are being handled by corporate lobbyists, secretly for their own benefit, and the details of the agreement have been shielded from Congress and the public.
If Congress grants President Obama fast-track trade authority, it will guarantee any agreement coming before Congress will be repugnant. Under fast track, Congress would be voting on the agreement with a gun to its head. They would have only 90 days to consider it, and would have only an up or down vote. This means no revisions may be made to the agreement, no matter how bad it is, which makes it easy for proponents to strong-arm representatives into voting for bad agreements, as the only alternative is no agreement at all. While many would prefer no agreement to a bad agreement, there are likely many congressional representatives who do not see it that way, and will prefer any agreement over none at all.
Congress absolutely must refuse to give the president fast-track authority! A growing coalition of politicians on the right and left are realizing this fact, but their ranks need to be bolstered if this agreement is to be stopped.
Contact your congressional representatives now to stop this gross abuse of power!