Congress’s Cat Burglars Are Pulling a Fast One on TPP

June 22, 2015 by Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

TELL CONGRESS: Don't Fast Track TPP“With cat-like tread upon our foes we steal.” So boasted Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance as they decided to try a little burglary for a change. And “steal” is the appropriate word.

It’s hardly a surprise that Republican congressional leaders and their cadre of Democratic allies spurred on by Barack Obama are resorting to a bagful of parliamentary tricks to put the Trans-Pacific Partnership on a “take it or leave it but you can’t change it” fast-track to enactment by Tuesday.

No sooner had the first round gone to pro-democracy forces than Speaker Boehner – forever remembered as the man who handed out tobacco lobby checks to members on the House floor — promptly scheduled a new vote allowing time to bring pressure on naysayers.

Remember when Tom De Lay, the former House Republican majority leader used to stop the clock of a legislative day at five minutes to midnight, the lobbyists’ favorite witching hour? That way he could whipsaw doubters into line behind something President George W. Bush wanted but couldn’t get through Congress in the open.

Boehner learned a lot from watching DeLay, and now he, Senate Majority Leader Mitch (“Mr. Dark Money”) McConnell, and assorted cronies are consorting to deliver to Mr. Obama the goods he has promised multinational conglomerates in the laughable name of “free trade.” And they are doing it the old-fashioned congressional way: hocus pocus.

The bill was reintroduced last Thursday, unaccompanied by a controversial provision to assist workers displaced by the pact, and passed 218 to 208. It now returns to the Senate for approval in its new form and there its opponents will make a last stand on Tuesday.

What a terrible contraption it still is, conceived in secret with the imprimatur of multinational corporate attorneys and dedicated to the proposition that American workers are expendable, the environment is mere foodstuff to swell profit margins, and sovereign American laws are subject to second-opinion lawsuits by foreign companies. “What looks like a stone wall to a layman,” a humorist of an earlier century once wrote, “is a triumphal arch to a corporation lawyer.”

This bag of tricks is full of deceptive arguments. Fast-track proponents claim that expanded trade will be good for everybody by creating plentiful new jobs here in the US. Unfortunately, specific examples and illustrations are conspicuously lacking.

International Business Times has just published a new report examining the known text of the TPP treaty that shows it would provide special legal rights to corporations that it denies to unions, small businesses and other public interest, environmental and civic groups. Specifically, while President Obama keeps repeating the misleading promise that the deal would “level the playing field,” instead, the TPP would let corporations sue in international tribunals to try to overturn labor, environmental and human rights laws while prohibiting public-interest groups from suing in the same tribunals. How’s that for a “level playing field?” Please, Mr. President, how about you leveling with us?

They say that without the treaty, America will be pushed out of its strong role in the world’s economy by China and a potential list of Asian satellites. If so, why is it we only know about the terms of the treaty through leaks, or a carefully condensed and edited online site, or a version available to Congress only on heavily restrictive terms? And why an end run around the Constitution by giving the president a sovereign power to deny the members of Congress their right to offer amendments against provisions that they believe harm the interests of their districts? What on earth would the Founding Fathers think?

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Senator Feinstein Says TPP Is Not For Corporate America, Critics Should ‘Take A Good Look’

The rhetoric for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is hitting new levels of absurdity. Though all available evidence – including leaked portions – shows the TPP is a massive give away to corporate interests, the agreement is being framed by Democratic advocates as some sort of bizarre achievement for working people.

First the White House called the TPP the “most progressive trade agreement in history” and now Senator Dianne Feinstein has claimed that TPP is not for Corporate America.

Instead, Feinstein offered that small businesses will be the real beneficiaries and that critics of the measure should more closely examine the proposed agreement.

“I want to straighten one thing out, and that is that most people think this is a bill for corporate America,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on ABC’s “This Week.” “In California, 95 percent of the trade is carried out by companies and business of less than 500 people.”…

Feinstein also said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who’s been criticized for dodging the debate on the issue, should “take a good look” at the measure.

Aye, there’s the rub. Can we “take a good look” Senator Feinstein? The answer, of course, is no. That lack of transparency from the “most transparent administration in history” is exactly why people are skeptical about other claims. That and the history of so-called free trade agreements which, to put it lightly, is unimpressive.

But if the White House and corporate Democrats really do believe what they say about how progressive this deal is then they should be committed to showing it to the public shouldn’t they? Anytime now.

Democrats In Senate Block TPP Fast-Track Authority For Obama

President Barack Obama’s campaign to give him authority to jam a secretive “trade” deal down Congress’ throat hit a roadblock in the Senate on Tuesday when Democrats refused to vote to cut off debate. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware was the only Democrat to vote in favor of advancing controversial fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Despite claims by White House officials that President Obama is leading “The most transparent administration in history,” the TPP deal has been shrouded in secrecy with a ban on members of Congress speaking about what is in the bill with the public. Members of Congress know that Obama wants fast-track authority so he can negotiate the entire agreement without Congressional amendments then demand Congress pass the agreement or risk hurting the economy.

The con did not work this time. President Obama responded to the defeat by lashing out at his own party and claiming that an economic agreement that would last years and effected numerous countries was “personal.”

President Obama’s dismissive attitude towards TPP opponents within his own party had already been an issue especially concerning his statements on Senator Elizabeth Warren which some claimed were sexist. Obama and his supporters have been waging a full scale campaign against progressive TPP critics in press releases and social media.

For now the campaign seems stalled thanks to the efforts of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown which are prevailing within the Democratic Party. TPP has already been scrutinized by economists as being mostly irrelevant to new job creation leaving the downsides of the bill which will lead to further diminished labor and environment standards, more expansive intellectual property “rights” at the expense of health and innovation, and a surrender of national sovereignty to corporate tribunals.

With Republicans eager to officially turn America over to transnational corporations and the global 1% it seems unlikely that fast-tracking the TPP is completely off the table. The House is set to take up the proposal soon and there is no guarantee that Democrats in the Senate will stay united. TPP is far from dead.