TPP: Will Voters Re-elect Laughing Stocks to the Senate?

Let’s review the devious process for passing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill devised by the Republicans I outlined in my last post. It has the following steps:

– Step one: the House passes a TPA bill without passing Trade Adjustments Assistance (TAA); then

– Step two: the Republicans in the Senate give assurances to Senate Democrats that TAA will be passed by the Senate and later the House;

– Step three: the Senate then passes the House’s TPA bill, and then sends it to the President; then

– Step four: the Senate passes an amendment to another piece of legislation (not clear yet whether the plan will use the Trade Preferences bill, or the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and incorporate TAA in one of those); then

– Step five: the House passes TAA with the help of Democrats, because once TPA is passed Democrats will have no incentive to vote against TAA.

Step one’s done now. A TPA bill without Trade Adjustment Assistance passed the House 218 – 208 on Thursday, sending the bill on to the Senate. In order to complete steps two – three, Mitch McConnell is promising the 14 Democratic Senators who voted for cloture on the TPA bill in May, that he will pass a bill re-authorizing the Ex – Im Bank, a measure empowering the Commerce Department to take retaliatory action against nations that violate trade rules, and also will immediately pass a TAA amendment to a trade preferences bill, so the Democratic Senators can say that they passed protections for workers who lose their jobs as an eventual consequence of the TPA whose passage they are supporting.

Of course, even if McConnell follows through with the promise of passage of the TAA (step four) that he probably has the means to fulfill, his and the President’s assurances that the Republicans in the House will fulfill their part of bargain, enabling Democrats to complete step five, passing TAA in the House, depend both on Speaker John Boehner’s cooperation and his ability to deliver 30 – 40 Republican votes for TAA, a program Republicans view as “welfare.”

A TAA package did get 86 Republican votes in the House in the failed roll call vote that was tied to the first TPA package in the House. But that total for TAA was delivered under pressure from the leadership to pass the TPA package. Sadly for the 14 defecting Democrats, neither McConnell, nor both together, can guarantee the delivery of that many Republican House votes for TAA, or even the necessary 30 – 40, once the TPA is passed.

After all, what would be the remaining Republican incentive to provide those votes? To protect the honor of McConnell, Boehner, and the President? To ensure that the 14 Senate Democrats don’t turn on the trade deals and vote “no” on the up or down votes on “free trade” left to them after the TPA is passed?

Even more to the point, where do the incentives of the two Republican leaders lie, once they have the TPA in hand for their neoliberal President, who they pretend to disagree so vehemently with? From my point of view, they lie in maximizing the chances for a Republican Senate victory in 2016.

One of the primary barriers in the way of such a victory, however, is the electoral map in the Senate elections of 2016. Current expectations are that 24 Republican and 10 Democratic seats will be up for election, a map heavily weighted against Republicans. The odds of the Republicans retaining control of the Senate and Mitch McConnell continuing as the Senate Majority Leader, undoubtedly one his very fondest wishes, would be increased if, through his actions he could enable the defeat of the three Democratic Senators among the 14 trade defectors who are running for re-election in 2016.

These Senators are Patty Murray (D-WA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Bennet is the shakiest of the three in re-election prospects. But all three would have their re-election chances hurt if Republicans broke faith with them and did not pass the TAA bill, after they supported it by voting for cloture, and then just trusted the Republicans to pass the TAA, rather than requiring its simultaneous passage as a necessary part of any TAA package.

Such a turn of events would make them look like naive fools. They would be viewed as laughing stocks by many of their constituents in 2016.

Will voters re-elect Senators who have become laughing stocks? That will be the question faced by Murray, Bennet, and Wyden if they vote for the TPA without TAA in the same bill.

If the Republicans do break faith with the defecting Democrats, these three will have about 16 months to live down their reputations as laughing stocks. Is 16 months enough time? I guess they’ll find out if they decide to trust Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the guys who vowed to ruin Barack Obama’s presidency, and are now helping him finish the job by so vigorously supporting his efforts to pass his disastrous trade deals.

And, by the way, 9 of the remaining 11 in the group of 14, with the exception of Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will have to find out whether even 40 months is enough time, if they too, go ahead with voting for the TPA bill without TAA being part of it.

13 responses to “TPP: Will Voters Re-elect Laughing Stocks to the Senate?

  1. Depressing but typical of the circuitous maneuverings of our beholden Congress (beholden to dollars from the highest bidder). Sorry to have to be candid here. The entire TPP is in virtually every aspect a horrendous anti-democratic package , created by study groups from Big Business for the benefit of Big Business, in total secrecy. Now they want to get it rubber stamped through Congress without the American people ever getting a chance to read the thing. Moreover, they want authority simultaneously to bulldoz
    e similar monstrosities through Congress for the next six years in similar secrecy!! Have we suddenly become worse than the most corrupt banana republic? Yes.

    • Joe Firestone

      I agree completely with this comment. As you’ll see if you read my many other posts on the TPP. They’re here.

      • Chatham H Forbes Sr.

        : Joe Firestonr: Thank you for illuminating. Just hope that the TPP package is transformed into a straightforward, honest trade agreement that will benefit not compromise the United States. I can’t adequately describe how totally disappointed I am about this. I’m especially surprised and disappointed that President Obama, whom I have actively supported from the beginning, has lent himself to this without openly explaining his stance to the American people who twice elected him. In particular, the secrecy is unforgivable, and the six more years of the same equally so. If this thing passes, I trust that a Democratic administration will insist on rewriting the deal to our advantage. Chatham H. Forbes Sr.

        • Once a multilateral treaty is signed and passed into law, it would be nearly impossible for a future president to undo the damage: he/she could try to pass a new treaty with all of the other countries… but one reason the TPP is just so bloody awful is that it is, for all intents and purposes, permanent. And binding. There’s no “sunset provision.” Which is just how the corporate lobbyists behind the treaty want it to be.

  2. Chatham H. Forbes Sr.

    Publish my previous comment of a few moments ago, as you have done for innumerable others already. It is not abusive. It is factual. It is scrupulously correct.

    • Joe Firestone

      FYI, all posts here are moderated. Often by the author. My policy is a very open one on permissible posts, as long they’re civil. However, I do many things aside from moderating my posts here, so if your post waits for awhile, then it means I’m doing something else and you’ll just have to wait to see it until I get back here. I understand that can be a drag, but it’s the site policy, to moderate everything, not my own, and Word Press doesn’t allow the option of having different policies for each moderator.

  3. Progressives and Democratic activists in Oregon are absolutely furious that 2/3rds of our state’s Democratic delegation to congress openly support this horrific corporate agenda: Wyden, Blumenauer, Schrader, and Bonamici.
    Bonamici and Schrader will likely lose their seats to Republicans next year, since their districts have a sizable turnout of GOP voters, and the base will not lift a finger to GOTV for those cretins. Unfortunately Blumenauer is probably safe, unless a surprise primary opponent surfaces, and soon. OR-03 would sooner elect a garden slug than a Republican. One up-an-coming Portland Democrat would have been a great primary challenger to take Blumenauer’s seat: Nicholas Caleb, a smart, telegenic, progressive young fellow. Caleb has no interest, however: he’s running for Portland City Council next year, and loathes the idea of being in DC.
    The only possible winning primary opponent for Wyden I can think of would be Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) who is extremely popular throughout the state. I’ve heard nothing that would indicate he’s planning a primary challenge, however. If Wyden faces a “moderate”-seeming Republican in next year’s general election, he could very well lose his seat: his support among the base is gone, thanks to his betrayal on fast track/TPP. He will get no union support, very few GOTV volunteers, and indeed many Democrats will likely vote for his opponent out of sheer spite. I’ll certainly never vote for him again.

    • I was very impressed with Rep DeFazio who answered reporters’ questions honestly, right after the Pres’s meeting with Democrats on the Hill on June 12th. He was subsequently grilled by the major networks after the no vote on TAA. He is intelligent, with ready knowledge of the issue, speaks well, handles pressure, and has the courage of his convictions. Gives one hope.

      • Rep. DeFazio has been one of the very few consistent progressive voices in the House, and Oregon is supremely blessed to have him.

        Pete DeFazio passed the bill restricting unregulated trucking companies from Mexico (as in non-union companies, meant to break the Teamsters) into America to ply their trade, although Bush allowed it, and after Obama entered the White House, he would overturn DeFazio’s move with an executive order.
        After Cynthia McKinney was voted out with the help of the DLC, and Kucinich gerrymandered out, DeFazio is about the last true and honorable progressive in the House.
        Which speaks to the need for a completely different party, such as the Socialist Alternative or Green Party.

        • sgt_doom, Do you think DeFazio would be interested in a run against Ron Wyden in the senatorial primary of 2016?

  4. Just wanted to add a step 3 1/2, JF:

    President Obama will break all speed records in signing TPA, without TAA, as soon as it hits his desk. No leverage from that office.
    (WSJ: “the president said he would sign the fast-track bill into law before Congress had passed a bill to renew the workers’ aid program.”)

  5. I’ve been attempting to explain to the locals in Washington state for years that Murray and Cantwell are neocons with “D’s” after their names.
    They keep reelecting them, unfortunately.
    And Washington is one of the 13 official states where unemployment still has yet to make the so-called recovery.
    Not surprising.

  6. In answer to your title question – yes…