Obama trade agenda fails in the House
by Gaius Publius
UPDATE: It's starting to be reported that House Republicans are going to take another run at passing TAA. Boehner made a motion to reconsider, and that motion could be voted on next week. More as it develops.
In a long awaited end to an epic struggle, pitting the "friends of money" in both parties against their populist wings, "friends of money" lost a big one today. This isn't final. But it's a big win for today.
Politico (my emphasis):
In a staggering blow to President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, the House easily defeated a measure to help workers displaced by free trade known as Trade Adjustment Assistance. The aid package was critical to securing Democratic support for fast-track trade authority for the president, which he’s seeking to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. The vote was 126-302.
While TAA (the "assistance" part of the legislation) failed, TPA (the actual Fast Track bill) passed. However, because the Senate sent both bills to the House as one package, both House portions had to pass for the Senate bill to pass.
Where we go from here is unclear. This can die, or it can go back to the Senate or into conference to revive the TAA portion without the Medicare poison pill. Or they may go to Disneyland with their lobbyist gifts and call it quits — though don't count on that. This is the one big want for wealth, and I expect continued pushing.
But for now — victory. One thing is certain — the number of No votes for the current TAA bill must be considered if this combo bill is reconstructed.
Public Citizen's Lori Wallach on the news today (again, my emphasis):
Defeat of Fast Track Package Highlights Americans’ Concerns About More of the Same Trade Policy – Senate-Passed Bill NOT Adopted
Wallach has been a tireless hero in this effort. We're lucky to have her.
The Fast Track package sent over from the Senate was rejected today by the House because two years of effort by a vast corporate coalition, the White House and GOP leaders – and weeks of procedural gimmicks and deals swapped for yes votes –could not assuage Americans’ concerns that more of the same trade policy would kill more jobs and push down our wages.
Passing trade bills opposed by a majority of Americans does not get easier with delay because the more time people have to understand what’s at stake, the angrier they get and the more they demand that their congressional representatives represent their will.
Welcome to the weekend as the millions of Americans across the political spectrum actively campaigning against Fast Track will intensify their efforts to permanently retire the Nixon-era scheme and replace it with a more inclusive, transparent process that instead of more job-offshoring can deliver trade deals that create American jobs and raise our wages.
Today the allegedly unstoppable momentum of the White House, GOP leadership and corporate coalition pushing Fast Track to grease the path for adoption of the almost-completed, controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal just hit the immovable object called transpartisan grassroots democracy.
The crazy gimmicks employed to try to overcome what polls show is broad opposition to Fast Track actually backfired. Yesterday, the House GOP leadership put most GOP representatives on record in favor of cutting Medicare by $700 million with a vote on a procedural gimmick. Today, it was Democrats’ ire about a gutted version of a program to assist workers who will be hurt by the trade agreements Fast Track would enable that was the proximate cause of the meltdown. That program was included only to try to provide cover for the two dozen Democrats who would even consider supporting Fast Track at all.
Today’s outcome is a testament to the strength and diversity of the remarkable coalition of thousands of organizations that overcame a money-soaked lobbying campaign by multinational corporations and intense arm-twisting by the GOP House leadership and the Obama administration. The movement now demanding a new American trade policy is larger and more diverse than in any preceding trade policy fight. It includes everyone from small business leaders and labor unions to Internet freedom advocates and faith groups to family farmers and environmentalists to consumer advocates and LGBT groups to retirees and civil rights groups to law professors and economists.
Congratulations and thanks as well to all of you who lobbied hard to make this victory happen.
Update from digby:
This from Huffington Post explains where we are procedurally [link here]:
With TAA defeated, Obama and Boehner have a variety of routes they can try to drive through. Their first attempt will be to call a new vote on Tuesday on TAA. "POTUS has the weekend to work the vote," said one GOP leadership aide. At one point during the TAA roll call, Republicans had as many as 93 yes votes. Once it became clear it was going down, seven switched and voted no, but Republicans know they're there if they need them in a pinch next time. That means that to get to 217 Democrats would need 124 votes. They only won 40 votes on Thursday. "They have a mountain to climb," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), leaving the Capitol.
Many Democrats, though, are worried that if they continue to vote against trade assistance, the program will disappear. Much of the caucus meeting Thursday was devoted to gaming out such a scenario. If Democrats do hang tough and vote no Tuesday, Obama and Boehner could try to pass fast track without TAA. They won such a vote 219-211 Thursday, but there was a sense of symbolism to it, as TPA could not become law without TAA attached to it, because of the way the House rule was structured. Nobody knows if the Democrats who voted for the symbolic TPA would vote for it under new conditions, without TAA, knowing that it could go back to the Senate and become law.
However, the original fast track passed the Senate with only 62 votes, two more than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. Strip away trade assistance, and you are likely to lose some Democratic votes. In that scenario, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could bring TPA to the Senate floor with a promise to do TAA later. The thinking would be that if Congress shows it can pass TPA without TAA, backers of TAA will fall in line, because Republicans are all too happy to pass the trade bill with no assistance to dislocated workers at all.