Over the past few months, President Barack Obama has relentlessly pushed Congress for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). If granted, the House and Senate would forsake their right to debate various portions of the nearly-finalized Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to amend various portions of it. Instead, Representatives and Senators would have only an up or down vote on the proposed trade pact.
Although the President is a Democrat, support for TPA is much greater among Republicans. Neo-liberal institutions, like the Washington Post, adamantly favor TPA. Every labor union expressing an opinion, by contrast, opposes TPA. Commentators from the right, center, and left, including me, have all concluded the underlying deal is a bad one.
Nevertheless, the Senate, by 62-37, approved TPA on May 23 in a bill that included Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) which ostensibly provides benefits to the expected hordes of workers whom the TPP will harm. This past Thursday, the House approved TPA with the support of a large majority of Republicans and a few Democrats. A week earlier, however, a coalition of nearly all Democrats and some Republicans rejected TAA.
Progressives helped vote down TAA because they viewed its defeat as the best way to stymie TPA. Now Senate Democrats, who voted for TPA in the first go-round, must decide whether to support it without TAA based on promises by Republicans Mitch McConnell and John Boehner that they’ll introduce pertinent legislation once TPA passes.
Progressive hopes to scuttle TPA and TPP rest on Senate democrats resisting the blandishments of the President and Republican leadership. Fortunately, minority leader Harry Reid has been unyielding in his opposition to the deal but the fate of TPA remains unknown.