Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
The "fast track" trade promotion authority bill has been introduced in the Senate. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says, "The Congress shall have power to ... regulate commerce with foreign nations." But under fast track, Congress relinquishes that power and agrees to pass trade bills brought to them by the executive branch in a very short timeframe with little debate and without making any changes should any problems present themselves.
Though it was announced that this year's fast track bill was the result of a "deal" between Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the 2015 bill is nearly identical to the 2014 bill that died in Congress without support for a vote. See this side-by-side comparison from Rep. Sander Levin of the House Ways and Means Committee. It is unclear from this comparison why the "negotiations" between Hatch and Wyden took so long, and what Wyden got that enabled him to put his name on it, enabling the bill to be sold as "bipartisan."
Fast Track Sets Aside Normal Procedure
Congress does not set aside normal procedure, debate, the ability to fix problems that turn up and agree to vote within 90 days except for trade agreements -- even though trade agreements have now proven to have such a tremendous and often detrimental effect on our economy, jobs, wages and inequality. Where did the idea to do this come from? According to Public Citizen, this unusual procedure was "initially created by President Richard Nixon to get around public debate and congressional oversight."
Even for trade agreements, this use of the fast track process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be unusual. Usually fast track is set up by Congress before a trade agreement is negotiated. This way Congress can at least say who to negotiate with and lay out a set of objectives they are directing the administration to achieve.
But the TPP agreement that this fast track process will apply to is already nearly completed! So for TPP only, fast track's special procedures to bypass the usual process -- short time period, limited debate, no amendments -- are only for pushing the agreement through, without the pre-designation of trade partners, objectives, and other matters that some say justifies doing so.
In essence, this fast track bill, if it passes, pre-approves TPP before anyone even knows what is in it and without Congress saying in advance what should be in it.
A Quick Way To Decide If You Are For Fast Track
If you don't want to get mired in the wording and details of the fast track bill, here is a shortcut to deciding if you are for it or against it:
-- Most Republicans in Congress are for it. In particular, the "establishment" Republicans generally are seen as in the pocket of Wall Street, giant multinational corporations and lobbyists are for it. (Note that many "Constitution-based" Tea Party Republicans are opposed to it.)
-- Most Democrats in Congress are against it.
-- Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations are for it big time.
-- Every single U.S. labor union is against it.
-- The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate organizations are for it.