Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
The "fast track" trade bill introduced last week by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has a number of problems. It sets aside Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution and essentially pre-approves the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the public and most of Congress even sees it. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not specify firm and sufficient objectives to make TPP a trade bill that could work for 99 percent of Americans.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Thursday offered an alternative, the Right Track for TPP Act of 2015. (Summary here, full text here.) This bill is a fast track process for doing trade right -- or at least for modifying the secretly negotiated TPP so it can be somewhat palatable to more of us than just the 1 percent.
Unfortunately, the House Ways and Means Committee's chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), ruled the substitute measure "out of order," reported The Huffington Post.
What the Levin Alternative Would Have Done
According to Levin, these are some of the problems with the current fast track bill in the Senate:
(1) It has "general and vague negotiating objectives" that are nearly identical to last year's bill and does not provide congressional guidance on completing the negotiations in a way that can get bipartisan support.(2) It leaves it up to the President, not Congress, to determine whether the agreement achieves the objectives spelled out in the bill.
(3) Even though TPP is in its "end game," the bill leaves it to the president to "develop guidelines on how to properly consult with Congress."
(4) The bill doesn't have a "meaningful" way for Congress to remove fast track.
"In short, the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan TPA bill (House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan helped write the bill) puts Congress in the back seat and greases the skids for an up-or-down vote after the fact."
To fix this, Levin's "right track" bill (according to a summary):
(1) Includes specific negotiating instructions on all of the major outstanding issues in the TPP negotiations;(3) Has Congress write the consultation procedures, including what negotiating texts must be shared with Congress and stakeholders; and
(2) Does not provide for expedited consideration unless and until bipartisan groups of House and Senate trade advisers determine that the instructions were followed;
(4) Includes two usable mechanisms to enable Congress to remove expedited consideration where necessary.
Some of the specific instructions include a requirement that TPP: