Just a day after stopping the fast tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the Senate Democrats cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring it back for another vote:
Under the agreement, the Senate will hold a series of votes on Thursday on three separate trade measures: two standalone votes on bills that reflect Democrats’ priorities, including one that would crack down on Chinese currency manipulation, and then another vote on a bill that would give Obama so-called “fast-track” negotiating authority.
If that sounds like a bad idea, well it is because neither of those bills has the backing from Republicans to pass in the Senate. In the bright side, the exclusion of protection for labor and regulations on currency an manipulation could doom fast track in the House.
Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been able to count on broad and deep support for the trade agenda, which is less about trade and more about smoothing out regulations to benefit multinational corporations. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn’t have that same luxury when it comes to granting so-called fast-track authority to Obama. [..]
People close to House leadership say Boehner expects to lose, at this point, roughly 50 Republican votes. Lobbyists and staffers on both sides of the issue said they think such a count is highly optimistic, and that House Republicans realistically have around 140 “yes” votes.
House Republicans start with 245 members and, thanks to two vacant seats, need 217 votes for a majority. Lobbyists and House staffers don’t expect more than 20 Democrats to join with Republicans — the number is said to be at 17 as of now — which would put the tally just shy of the number needed, giving Boehner and Obama a fighting chance to get over the top. But if the GOP is indeed only in the 140s and needs to flip 50 undecided or “no” votes between now and the time of the vote, the challenge is a daunting one. Even getting to 170 would leave trade-bill backers well short.
In such a scenario, lobbyists and operatives say, Boehner would elect not to bring the bill to the floor at all, so as not to set an anti-trade precedent and to spare his members a vote that angers the business community with one decision and the tea party with the other. [..]
The customs enforcement bill would toughen up punishments for businesses and countries that cheat trade rules by underpricing goods, and ban imports of goods made with forced child labor. Somewhat more importantly, the currency manipulation measure within the bill would clamp down on countries that seek to make their goods cheaper by devaluing their own currencies. It’s a major priority for Democrats, but by agreeing to hold a vote on it that’s separate from the fast-track bill, it all but guarantees the House will not take it up.
If House GOP leadership chooses to ignore the bills Democrats demanded votes on in the Senate, and they likely will, House Democrats may try to push the issue.
In the end, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Javier Becerra, said Republicans shouldn’t expect Democrats to help them out on trade.
“I don’t believe that Republican leaders should count on Democrats to bail them out of their bill, Becerra said.
The short of it: even if these bills manage to make it to President Obama’s desk, he will veto them and we will be stuck with another economically devastating trade bill. The Democrats meed to wake up.