The Senate on Wednesday voted 60-38 to send President Obama Trade Promotion Authority legislation that would facilitate passage of trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership. Congress needs more time to clear related legislation, including bills that would aid workers who lost their jobs due to trade deals and would establish trade negotiation objectives that seek to ensure trade deals will not change U.S. immigration law or expand access to visas.
TPA will allow the president to negotiate and sign trade deals, which are then sent to Congress along with implementing legislation. They cannot be amended in Congress and get simple majority votes. A deal cannot be filibustered and would not be subject to the constitutionally-stipulated two-thirds vote for treaties.
TPA will expire in 2018 but Congress can easily extend it to 2021. Obama will most likely submit the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to Congress first. Some reports have suggested TPP is ready for his signature. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) could follow.
Commenting on TPA passage, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said “President Obama, and allies in Congress, have won this fast-track vote. But, in exchange, they may find that they are losing something far greater: the trust of the American people…Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote—not one to spare—to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages, and control over their own affairs.”
Public Citizen’s president, Robert Weissman, said “When the inexcusable and anti-democratic veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP is finally lifted and the American people see what is actually in the agreement, they are going to force their representatives in Washington to vote that deal down.
Also on Wednesday the Senate passed a related bill that includes worker aid under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and trade preferences for African nations. Speaker John Boehner pledged to take up TAA in the House after the Senate passed its version. Both chambers are ready to begin conference committee work on separate customs and enforcement legislation.
The customs legislation passed by the House contains an immigration "fix" Republican leaders said would prevent trade deals from addressing immigration issues. The measure did not allay the concerns of Republicans who said it was ineffective and may never get signed into law. Even if the language is enacted, the TPP is reportedly a “living agreement” that can be changed after passage by Congress. It would allow a president to, for example, negotiate guest worker visa increases after passage and Congress would have no authority to overturn the subsequent deal.
Read more in The Hill.
Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:33pm EDT