June 12, 2015 archive

The Bottom Line

You stop voting for oligarchy and I’ll stop talking about it.

Yeah, looking at you Democrats.

House Democrats just derailed Obama’s trade agenda

by Timothy B. Lee, Vox

June 12, 2015, 2:06 p.m. ET

he House of Representatives just voted down a crucial piece of President Obama’s trade agenda in a 302-126 vote. The vote is bad news for the Trans Pacific-Partnership, the controversial trade deal Obama is currently negotiating.

The House rejected a bill that would have extended funding for trade adjustment assistance programs, which help workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign competition find new work. The program is traditionally supported by Democrats, but Democrats voted no because they knew passing it would advance the TPP, which most Democrats opposed.

Another piece of Obama’s trade agenda passed in a second vote, 219-211, with mostly Republican support. But the lack of TAA makes the House trade package different from the one in the Senate. The house is expected to hold another vote on TAA next week, but after today’s lopsided vote it won’t be easy for President Obama and Republican leaders to round up the support they need.

The result signals a damaging vote of no confidence in Obama’s trade agenda from members of his own party. It will weaken the president’s bargaining position overseas as he wraps up negotiation over the TPP.

President Obama and his Republican allies aren’t giving up. They held a vote on TPA right after the failure of TAA, passing it by a vote of 219-211. And the House is expected to hold another vote on TAA next week. If that fails, then Obama might try to pass the House bill – without TAA – through the Senate.

Obama’s trade struggles in Congress will weaken his bargaining position abroad. The leaders of other TPP countries such as Japan, Australia, and Chile will have to make politically costly concessions in order to conclude the TPP negotiations. They’re only going to be willing to do that if they think there’s a good chance the deal will actually be ratified.

Today’s failed TAA vote is a clear signal that congressional Democrats are staunchly opposed to the TPP, and that Congress as a whole is skeptical of Obama’s trade agenda. That means the negotiations are more likely to break down, as countries become less willing to make politically costly concessions for a deal that might never take effect anyway.

Also, President Obama is running out of time. Even under the “fast-track” process, it takes several months after a deal is ratified for Congress to approve it. With only 19 months left in Obama’s presidency, that doesn’t give the administration much margin for error. And if Congress doesn’t approve trade legislation this year, the political pressures of an election year will make it even more difficult to get Congress to act in 2016.

House Rejects Trade Bill, Rebuffing Obama’s Dramatic Appeal


JUNE 12, 2015

House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from President Obama on Friday, torpedoing his ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating power – and, quite likely, his chance to secure a legacy-defining trade accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.

In a remarkable rejection of a president they have resolutely backed, House Democrats voted to kill assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has stood by for four decades. By doing so, they brought down legislation granting the president trade promotion authority – the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress – before it could even come to a final vote.

Republican leaders now have two legislative days, beginning Monday night, to bring back the trade adjustment legislation for another vote.

But the sheer number of lawmakers who would have to change their votes make passage a second time doubtful, Republican leadership aides conceded.

The vote was an extraordinary blow to Mr. Obama, who went to the Capitol on Friday morning to plead personally with Democrats to “play it straight” – to oppose trade promotion if they must, but not to kill trade assistance, a move he cast as cynical. On Thursday night, he had made an unscheduled trip to the annual congressional baseball game to try to persuade Ms. Pelosi.

But a president who has long kept Congress at arm’s length may have paid a price. Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas, said Mr. Obama mustered rousing applause Friday morning as he went through the battles he had fought with fellow Democrats – on labor organizing, health care access and environmental protection. But he could not change minds.

Defeat for Obama on trade as Democrats vote against him

by Ben Jacobs, The Guardian

Friday 12 June 2015 13.50 EDT

With the Democratic minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, speaking in opposition to the bill and going directly against Obama less than three hours after the president begged his party’s caucus to support it, the vote on trade adjustment assistance (TAA) – which would have provided government aid to workers who had lost their jobs because of free trade agreements – marks not just a major setback for future trade agreements but for Obama’s influence in his own caucus.

The failed vote came as part of an effort by liberals to torpedo attempts by the Obama administration to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal.

That deal has a much greater chance if Congress grants the president fast-track trade authority – which would mean future trade deals, such as the TPP and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the EU, could not be amended by Congress and would simply receive an up and down vote, making it easier for the president to push them through.

Both the House and the Senate have now approved fast-track in different forms, but there needs to be a conference to reconcile the two bills before the president is given the authority.

Which it does not survive.  This is why Congress is seeking to avoid a conference at all costs.

The federation of labor associations, the AFL-CIO, was actively lobbying against assistance to displaced workers and joined by conservative groups like the Club for Growth in the effort, which opposes TAA as a “wasteful welfare program”.

And this strange alliance proved enough to lead to TAA failing to achieve enough support, losing by 302 to 126, as only a small minority of Democrats backed a program that their party unanimously supported in 2011. On the Republican side, 86 representatives voted for TAA. Only 40 Democrats did so.

Some Democrats justified their opposition to TAA by raging against the TPP, with Brad Sherman of California saying: “Every lobbyist here in Washington whose job it is to increase profits is for this.”

In contrast, others, like Gregory Meeks of New York, were less than pleased with the opposition of fellow party members to TAA. “It’s not for substance,” he told the Guardian. “You can’t argue substantively to be against TAA but for the politics.”

The deal has drawn an unprecedented lobbying effort from the Obama administration. The president made a surprise appearance at the Congressional Baseball Game on Thursday night to ask for support and spoke to a special meeting of the Democratic caucus on Friday morning to plead for support. Representative Judy Chu of California told the Guardian “I think each of one us has been called” either by member of cabinet or high-ranking White House official.

Meeks thought Obama’s speech to the caucus, where he did not take questions, helped. “I think he made a positive impact,” said Meeks. “I think it was a passionate plea, I don’t think anyone on either side can’t say that he was not sincere and gave a lot of individuals something to think about, especially those feeling pressure

on the politics.”

But not all members felt that way. Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon told reporters “basically, the president tried to both guilt people and then impugn their integrity” while Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota tweeted bitterly on Friday morning: “Now President Obama wants to talk?”

But, all of Obama’s efforts proved for naught after Pelosi took the floor and spoke out against the deal. She said: “While I’m a big supporter of TAA, if TAA slows down the fast track I am prepared to vote against TAA.” This marked a rare break between the House Democratic leadership and the White House.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest brushed off the vote as “a procedural snafu” on Friday. He urged House Democrats to support TAA now that “they have registered their objections” to fast-track trade authority.

However, despite repeated questions from reporters, Earnest did not rule out Obama approving fast-track without TAA if that combination somehow made it through procedural hurdles in the Senate.

So the gloves come off.  Obama is no Democrat and never was one.

But for Obama, this was an unmitigated defeat as one of the key priorities of his second term was overwhelmingly rejected by his own party.


Don’t Be Fooled! TAA & Other Trade Bills Will Cut Medicare and More

Up Date: TAA has failed to pass the House by a vote of 126 – 302.

The House will now vote on Fast Track.

Up Date: TPA (Fast Track) passed 219- 211.

In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a motion to reconsider the TAA which was tabled for later consideration.

House now voting on the Customs Enforcement Bill.

Up Date: The Trade Enforcement and Customs Act passed 240 – 190.

The vote on the motion to reconsider TAA will take place on Monday June 15. Without it the TPA bill cannot move forward:

Technically, the vote was on a portion of the legislation to renew federal aid for workers who lose their jobs through imports.

A second roll call followed on the trade negotiating powers themselves, and the House approved that measure, 219-211. But under the rules in effect, the overall legislation, previously approved by the Senate, could not advance to the White House unless both halves were agreed to. That made votes something less than a permanent rejection of the legislation.

In complex maneuvers to get more Democrats to vote for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, aka Fast Track), Republicans pulled language from the TAA bill that would have cut $700 million from Medicare to offset the cost. Don’t Be Fooled! The Republicans just moved the cuts to another bill that will be attached to Fast Track. From Dave Johnson at Crooks and Liars:

A bill on customs and trade law enforcement is being “loaded up” with amendments that will be attached to the fast-track TPA law, after (and if) fast track passes. These include amendments that would forbid the U.S. from doing anything through the trade agreement to address climate change, restrict actions to fix immigration laws or allow more visas, require trade laws to expand markets for Alaskan seafood, as well as other items intended to “buy votes” for fast-track TPA from reluctant Democrats. The customs bill also tries to get Democratic votes by undoing a provision that cuts Medicare in order to “pay for” trade adjustment assistance for workers who will lose their jobs if TPP passes.

Democrats who vote for the customs bill are voting to approve the ideological amendments added by Republicans. Many Republicans may choose to vote against fast-track TPA if the customs bill does not include the ideological amendments.

In other words, the Medicare cuts are still in the TAA and Democrats must vote for the Customs Bill to change it.

Lori M. Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, explained to MSNBC host Michael Eric Dyson how these bills will hurt everything from climate change and emigration, to killing jobs and greases the path to passing the TPA. Also on the show discussing how very bad these bills are Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim Keady, director of Educating for Justice.

As Democracy for America puts it this is a trap

The Fast Track plan includes a trap: a $700 million cut to Medicare in order to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and services for people who lose their jobs to foreign trade. Although Trade Adjustment Assistance and Fast Track are two separate bills, they’ve been linked by Republicans.

As the AFL-CIO and other allies are saying right now to House members, the bottom line is clear: A vote for the current Trade Adjustment Assistance bill and a vote for Fast Track is a vote to cut Medicare.

This is it. We need all hands on deck — and we need to take drastic action to win.

There are eight Democrats who are still undecided, whose votes could decide whether Medicare gets cut and whether Fast Track passes. Can you give these eight Representatives a call right now? Even if you’re not a constituent, they need to hear from you. It’s that important.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about what we mean we say “it’s a trap,” check out these Medicare attack ads that Republicans ran against Democrats in 2014 — a video made possible by our friends at the Communications Workers of America:

I don’t often agree with DFA these days but they are spot on exposing the GOP agenda.

More from Dave:

The TAA bill has passed the Senate. Senate Republicans cut TAA funding by 21 percent from current levels, excluded public-sector workers from receiving any assistance and required that Medicare be cut to pay for what remains. Yet several Democrats agreed and voted for the bill. Now with the bill before the House, House leadership is trying to lure Democratic votes for the TAA bill by changing the funding from Medicare cuts in the sub-Saharan Africa bill, while retaining the ability to use the recorded TAA vote to cut Medicare against them in the coming elections.

The AFL-CIO has come out against TAA. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, has stated his opposition to the TAA bill. Many Democrats who support fast-track TPA will find it political difficult to continue to do so without assistance for the workers who will lose jobs as a result of their support. [..]

This is widely called a “trade” vote, but from what is known about the actual TPP agreement (it’s secret from the public) it is largely about things other than what would usually be understood as trade. For example, one provision called investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) has been leaked to Wikileaks so it is known that it allows corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that interfere with the corporation’s ability to collect current and “expected” profits.

Another leaked provision revives the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that Congress killed a few years ago. Yet another extends patents and copyrights far beyond what Congress has approved.

The Hill has been maintaining a “whip list” of who is for or against the fast-track bill. As of late Thursday, 118 Republicans and 20 Democrats were either declared or leaning “yes” votes. There were 44 Republicans and 135 Democrats declared or leaning “no.” That left 33 Democrats and 83 Republicans in the “undecided” column.

Especially the members who are undecided need to feel the heat from you to vote against fast track. If you have not made that call to your member of Congress, use our click-to-call tool to make that call now.

There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.


The Breakfast Club (The Idea Still Lives)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

President Ronald Reagan demands the tearing down of the Berlin Wall; Civil rights activist Medgar Evers killed; O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole and Ronald Goldman murdered; Baseball Hall of Fame opens.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.

Medgar Evers

On This Day In History June 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

June 12 is the 163rd day of the year (164th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 202 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Virginia adopts George Mason’s Declaration of Rights

The assembled slaveholders of Virginia promised to “the good people of VIRGINIA and their posterity” the equal right to life, liberty and property, with the critical condition that the “people” were white men. These same white men were guaranteed that “all power” would be “vested in, and consequently derived from” them. Should a government fail to represent their common interest, a majority of the same held the right to “reform, alter or abolish” the government.

Drafting and adoption

The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia’s Declaration of Rights stated that it was ‘”the basis and foundation of government” in Virginia.  A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia’s Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.

It was initially drafted by George Mason circa May 20, 1776; James Madison assisted him with the section on religious freedom. It was later amended by Thomas Ludwell Lee and the Convention to add a section on the right to uniform government (Section 14). Patrick Henry persuaded the Convention to delete a section that would have prohibited bills of attander, arguing that ordinary laws could be ineffective against some terrifying offenders.

Mason based his initial draft on the rights of citizens described in earlier works such as the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Declaration can be considered the first modern Constitutional protection of individual rights for citizens of North America. It rejected the notion of privileged political classes or hereditary offices such as the members of Parliament and House of Lords described in the English Bill of Rights.

The Declaration consists of sixteen articles on the subject of which rights “pertain to [the people of Virginia]…as the basis and foundation of Government.” In addition to affirming the inherent nature of natural rights to life, liberty, and property, the Declaration both describes a view of Government as the servant of the people, and enumerates various restrictions on governmental power. Thus, the document is unusual in that it not only prescribes legal rights, but it also describes moral principles upon which a government should be run.


The Virginia Declaration of Rights heavily influenced later documents. Thomas Jefferson is thought to have drawn on it when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence one month later (July 1776). James Madison was also influenced by the Declaration while drafting the Bill of Rights (completed September 1787, approved 1789), as was the Marquis de Lafayette in voting the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).

The importance of the Virginia Declaration of Rights is that it was the first constitutional protection of individual rights, rather than protecting just members of Parliament or consisting of simple laws that can be changed as easily as passed.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Hulk? Smash!)

Lady Madonna

Lady Viagra

Tonightly Lincoln Chafee one on one.  Also Lindsey Graham’s chances with the panel Vince Staples, Gina Yashere, and Mike Yard.


The Grey Lady

Next week’s guests-

Puny God

That’s my secret.  I’m just this big cuddly green rage monster.  Mark Ruffalo is such a vast improvement that it’s hard to remember Eric Bana.

Actually I’m more a DC Guy and specifically The Dark Night.

How does it feel to be the only member of The Justice League without superpowers?

Don’t.  Need.  Them.

Film has not been kind to DC though I look forward to treatments of Jack Kirby’s The New Gods and Darkseid.  Arrow and Flash are kind of decent however and Felicity Smoak definitely has this Bailey Quarters hotness thing happening (I am not Spock), but I could work with her and be her friend.

In my last session with my therapist she asked me, in all sincerity, if I ever identified as ek hornbeck.  I was put in mind of Batman Beyond, Shriek, where the villian tries to torment Wayne into suicide.  At the end of the episode Terry McGuiness asks how Bruce was able to tell the voice inside his head wasn’t real.

“That’s not what I call myself.”

Seriously, I’m a ticking time bomb and it’s best to be someplace else ‘Tasha or you might remember Budapest quite differently.

The real news below.