by Bob Geary
[Update II, 3:30 p.m.: Let me bottom-line this as far as Congressman Price is concerned. TAA is likely to be voted on again. Price, if he's really opposed to fast-track, should vote no on TAA on any re-vote, given today's events — unless and until the trade-deal process itself (as he describes it in his statement below) is reformed. I say this because the fast-track bill has already been approved, 219-211, despite Price's opposition. All it requires now to be signed by Obama is House approval of TAA, which Price is so far supporting — but, to repeat, should not. Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which hinges on approval of both fast-track and TAA, should urge Price to change his "yes" position to "no" on the TAA. See the comments and links to this post for more detail.]
[Update, 2:45 p.m. TAA went down to defeat. TPA was approved but can't be sent to the White House without TAA in the same package. Got it? Of course not, no one does. Read the comments below, and the links in them, for more on what looks to be a continuing Washington saga.]
Are you riveted to your news feed(s), awaiting word on the fate of fast-track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in the U.S House of Representatives, which is the key to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, and then there's the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) law, which either is or is not going to be funded by cuts to Medicare? Well, it's Congress, folks, and I could 'splain it to you, but chances are I'd get something wrong and even if I didn't, the facts "on the ground," as they say, would change within the hour.
(I want to note that I edited this post slightly just after it went it up to make it clear that Price is opposed to the TPA ("bill") and not necessarily the TPP, which has yet to be seen or even finally negotiated. (Thus, "bills" was a mistake.) I also changed the headline from "and" the TPP to "for" the TPP for the same reason. See above for why writing about Congress is a minefield.)He was on C-SPAN yesterday for the best part of an hour. Still not staking out a position.
But — a "key procedural vote" at 4:50 p.m. yesterday kept the whole shebang alive by a narrow margin, just 217-212. How did Price vote?
And as I was writing this, Price issued a statement, which is anti-fast-track and thus leans anti-TPP. But he's not helping the progressive Democrats who are attempting to scuttle this deal by promising to vote against extending the TAA, a position which could result in Price actually helping the other two squeak by without his support.
Here's what he said:
Washington, DC — Congressman David E. Price (NC-04) gave the following remarks during floor debate on legislation providing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the Administration and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for displaced workers.
“Over the past two years, I and other members have made good-faith efforts to improve the process through which Congress considers trade agreements, to better ensure that our nation is negotiating agreements that maintain rules of fair competition, including robust protections for workers and the environment, while mitigating the worst effects of globalization.
“The process the TPA legislation has gone through, with Ways and Means Democrats denied every opportunity to improve the legislation in Committee, while Republicans were accommodated in the customs bill with anti-environmental and anti-immigrant provisions, has moved in the precisely the wrong direction from what might have gained my support.
“Therefore, I plan to vote against TPA today. But I strongly oppose the efforts of some of my colleagues to bring down TPA by trying to defeat the companion Trade Adjustment Assistance bill. TAA is a good bill which reflects long-standing Democratic priorities, and the objectionable offset has been removed. It would be irresponsible and reckless to put displaced workers at risk for the sake of a political tactic. I urge my colleagues: support TAA, whether or not you plan to support TPA.”
Price is the Triangle's Democratic congressman. Republican gerrymandering makes his 4th District virtually impregnable for the Democrats, while making two other Triangle districts, the 2nd and the 13th, solidly Republican. The two Republican congresspeople, Frank Holding and Renee Ellmers, are pro-TPP etc.
President Obama is lobbying the House as I write this. Most Democrats are opposed to the TPP and therefore to fast-track authority. Only a handful have said they'll support the President. A shrinking number, which up to the hour included Price, have stayed on the fence. Thus, Obama is mainly counting on Republicans to push this mess through for him.
I say this mess because its opponents include Elizabeth Warren, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Bill Moyers, organized labor, most environmental groups — in other words, I'm not a trade expert, but many who are and who stand with working-class Americans are dead-set against this deal as it stands.
Oh, and that includes Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. But not Hilary Clinton.
So, it's going to be a long day and the sun is shining — even in Washington.