Reid Announces Opposition to ‘Fast Track’ on Trade
By Siobhan Hughes, Wall Street Journal
January 29, 2014, 2:47 p.m. ET
“I’m against fast track,” Mr. Reid told reporters one day after President Barack Obama renewed his call for Congress to pass fast-track legislation, which means Congress must consider trade bills on an expedited basis in an up-or-down vote with no amendments. “I think everyone would be well-advised just not to push this right now.”
Fast-track authority is seen as crucial to cementing the trade deals because of the reassurance it would provide negotiating partners in the final, politically-sensitive rounds of talks. Other nations are typically reluctant to make trading concessions unless the U.S. can offer assurances trading pacts won’t be amended or rejected by Congress at the last minute.
“You can kiss any new trade deals goodbye,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas.) “I think the majority leader’s focus is on the November elections and he doesn’t want to expose his vulnerable members to controversial votes.”
On Wednesday Mr. Reid made clear that he has expressed the depth of his opposition plainly, including to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.), who recently unveiled the fast-track bill, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who is presumed to become chairman of the committee when Mr. Baucus steps down to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
“Everyone knows how I feel about this-Senator Baucus knows; Senator Wyden knows; the White House knows,” Mr. Reid said, declining to say whether he would stop fast-track legislation from coming up for a Senate floor vote. “We’ll see,” he said.
Mr. Wyden has expressed concerns about the existing fast-track bill and thinks it needs to be rewritten, an aide said.
An aide to Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp said the Michigan Republican would like to have bipartisan support before moving fast-track legislation forward in the House.
Many Democrats are skeptical of recent free-trade agreements, saying they don’t do enough to stem the flow of jobs overseas and don’t require trading partners to observe strict labor and environmental rules similar to those in the U.S. Some are concerned the Asia-Pacific pact under negotiation will siphon U.S. jobs to low-income countries such as Vietnam.
“It seems there’s a great opportunity to get off the fast track to bad trade deals and open the policy window to a better deal for workers,” Celeste Drake, a trade expert with the AFL-CIO, said.
A poll released on Wednesday showed that 62% of voters oppose fast-track negotiating authority for Mr. Obama. The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, shows that Republican voters are more concerned about giving fast-track authority to Mr. Obama than Democrats.
Mirabile Dictu! Reid Tells Off Obama on Fast Track, Killing Toxic Trade Deals for 2014
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
Posted on January 30, 2014
(M)y Congressional correspondents think another gambit is more likely: to make some cosmetic changes and try to get the bill passed during the lame duck session, on the assumption that some Democrats (particularly those who are leaving office) will use the cover and change positions.
However, that cheery view assumes that the situation is static, when opposition to these bills is becoming even more pronounced.
And the repudiation by Reid and the stiffening resistance to these bills won’t go unnoticed overseas. The Wikileaks publication of drafts of two critical chapters showed a wide gap between the US positions and that of many of its supposed partners. Our reader Clive has also described how the Japanese media (and Japan is essential to the TPP being consummated) is being uncharacteristically direct in saying the US was not negotiating, and it would need to make significant concessions to reach an agreement. The TPP was already going pear shaped, and whatever sense of momentum the US had been able to create is now kaput.