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Monday, May 18, 2015

Schumer Organized the Democratic Collapse on TPP

by Gaius Publius

Here's the Washington Post's headline:

Schumer at Center of Democrats’ Trade Drama

But as the article makes clear, "Schumer is at the center of Dem trade drama" is easy code for "Schumer is lead perp for Dem trade collapse." Sen. Chuck Schumer, soon-to-be Minority Leader, got his wish, a Fast Track bill that would pass the Senate, plus a separate currency bill that "pro–billionaire-controlled trade" senators can use for ground cover.

The telling quote:
Of course, the likely outcome is the separate measures will pass out of the Senate, but the currency-related measure faces a rough road in the House and at the White House.

Pro-trade Democrats, though, will be able to say they voted to get tough on trade even as they voted for a six-year fast-track trade bill.
Nice job, Mr. Schumer. Notice both pieces. First, as a separate bill the currency restrictions will pass, but they can be vetoed separately from Fast Track. So that's a win for Fast Track — no enforceable currency restrictions. Second, passing the separate currency bill allows pro-TPP Democrats to brag about how they "tried" anyway, useful fog for the campaign trail. Again, nice job, Mr. Schumer.

Now for the rest of the Wash Post piece, which contains a fascinating look at the back-and-forth, and the lead architect of that back-and-forth, which led to the defeat of the second filibuster and will lead to Fast Track passing in the Senate.

That lead architect, again, is Chuck Schumer:
Senate Democrats’ epic trade revolt against President Barack Obama’s fast-track bill — and the furious efforts to salvage it — had one senator at the center of it all: Charles E. Schumer.

The New York Democrat, who has become the heir apparent to Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, found himself in an awkward position, to say the least. A provision he authored to get tough on countries that manipulate their currencies was threatening to bring down the White House’s entire trade agenda; its absence on the Senate floor was why Democrats filibustered Obama’s fast-track trade package Tuesday.

By the end of the day Wednesday, the crisis — what White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest kept calling a “procedural snafu” — had been averted, with Schumer helping to seal the deal.

Although the New Yorker has opposed the trade bills — he voted against fast track in committee — as the caucus’ future leader, he has to balance the anti-trade sentiment among the vast majority of Democratic senators with his loyalty to the White House and the desires of a sizable number of pro-trade Democrats, such as Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

In short, it’s a sign of the kind of leader Schumer will be.
Don't forget to notice "progressive" Patty Murray's role in this. As a member of Democratic leadership, she seems to have had to choose between "following the neo-liberal leader" — in this case, Barack Obama on TPP — and standing with all other progressives in the "Democratic coalition," including every labor union. Murray is choosing to play ball with Senate leadership against progressives. Watch her carefully going forward. This looks a lot like the victory of careerism over principle.

Confirmation that Schumer is playing both sides — pro-billionaire, pretend-progressive — comes later in the article:
Schumer all along — both in committee and at the microphones Tuesday — said his goal was not to use his currency proposal as a poison pill to kill fast track, which is why he offered it as an amendment to the separate customs bill last month.
The main reason for the explosion of popular joy after the first filibuster vote was that poison pill. Schumer and the White House (via its late-night meeting with 10 named Democratic senators) re-energized the pro-TPP senators, re-stiffened their pro-TPP spines. In the end, those ten plus four others (see below) were more than enough to defeat the second Democratic filibuster.

Who Are the Pro-TPP Democratic Senators?

Ahead of the vote, Wyden claimed he had 14 senators on his side (Politico Pro; subscription required):
Sen. Ron Wyden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said earlier today that 14 Democrats were prepared to vote for cloture if there was a clear path for approval of the customs bill.
Ten Democratic senators were named in the White House's press announcement of its Tuesday post-filibuster meeting with Democrats. (Politico wrote up the importance of that action here. Note that Politico's write-up also served to turn up the heat on those Democrats.)

Who were the other four? The Hill had previously named two, Feinstein and McCaskill, who were siding with Wyden on "trade," and they indeed voted to defeat the second filibuster. Plus there were two surprises. We now have the result of the second vote on Fast Track. The filibuster was defeated 65–33 with two Republicans not voting. In addition to the original 10 names from the White House meeting, four additional senators indeed voted with Wyden and Republicans.

The entire list of pro-TPP Senate Democrats is below, with phone numbers. Enjoy.
  • Michael Bennet (D-CO) — 202-224-5852
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA) —202-224-3441
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD) —202-224-4524
  • Tom Carper (D-DE) — 202-224-2441
  • Chris Coons (D-DE) — 202-224-5042
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) —202-224-3841
  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) —202-224-2043
  • Tim Kaine (D-VA) —202-224-4024
  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO) —202-224-6154
  • Patty Murray (D-WA) —202-224-2621
  • Bill Nelson (D-FL) — 202-224-5274
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) — 202-224-2841
  • Mark Warner (D-VA) —202-224-2023
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR) —202-224-5244
Notice Patty Murray, Jeanne Shaheen, and especially the original sinner, Oregon "progressive" Ron Wyden. He should lose his job over this, in my humble opinion.

Finally, these two, while voting to uphold the second filibuster, are not in the clear:
  • Cory Booker (D-NJ) — who declined to vote on the first filibuster
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — who helped collapse the resistance
Schumer's DC phone number is — 202-224-6542. Booker's is — 202-224-3224. Schumer probably won't care that you called to complain, but why not call anyway? If you do, tell him his No vote doesn't hide his hand in Fast Track passing. TPP is still his fault.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)