Reprinted from The Nation
The decision on whether to surrender the authority of the US Congress to amend and potentially improve trade agreements goes to the very heart of whether the United States respects democracy. If members of the House and Senate cannot check and balance executive branch choices that will define the economic future of the country, then the ability of the American people to petition for the redress of economic and social grievances and to have those grievances addressed by their elected representatives is severely undermined. That is what is at stake with debates about whether to eliminate basic congressional oversight of trade deals, via the "fast track" Trade Promotion Authority that President Obama seeks.
The vote Thursday by the Senate to shut down debate on a measure to provide Obama with this authority was the first step in the deconstruction of the democratic processes by which citizens can influence not just trade but economic policy. If the Senate now approves fast track, and if the House goes along with the plan, then the ability to alter or improve sweeping new trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be lost. All that will remain is a take-it-or-leave-it vote on final approval of a deal negotiated behind closed doors and without adequate scrutiny by the American people or their elected representatives.