TPP: State of Play in the House

The Republicans and the Administration still can’t count on the 217 votes needed to pass Fast-Track, according to Politico. There are 245 Republicans and 188 Democrats in the House. Republicans are now “feeling new found optimism that at least 190 of their lawmakers” will support fast-track. So, that leaves 55 Republican opponents. Very near the maximum of 57 that TPP opponents have estimated could vote against it.

A few days ago, supporters of the bill reportedly could not count on more than 17 Democrats to vote for it, and no more than 20 after all the maneuvering and politicking has occurred. Today, the number of committed TPP Democrats seems to be 18. So, it appears not much progress has been made toward the 217 votes required to carry the measure, and the pro-TPP forces still have 9 votes to get, provided they don’t lose any of the 18 Democrats, called out publicly by Alan Grayson on June 1st, much to the regret and/or consternation of Steny Hoyer, perhaps the rest of the House leadership, and, at least some of the 18 Democrats called out.

Hoyer has gone so far as to characterize Grayson as “not helpful” when this serious Democrat calls out people in the caucus who are selling out both the Democratic caucus majority and the American people by supporting a deal that clearly betrays the principles of national sovereignty, popular sovereignty, and consent of the governed apart from the damage it is likely to do to jobs, economic equality, net neutrality, the environment, the climate, and progress toward making the United States energy self-sufficient using renewable sources and technologies. By every yardstick one can think of TPP would be a disaster, yet Hoyer has the gall to characterize him as “unhelpful,” a classic bureaucratic epithet used by authorities who won’t engage in real debate of issues but prefers instead to speak from authority using labeling and name-calling against someone who disagrees with him.

That brings us to the Democratic Leadership as a group. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn are leading by refusing to commit to either side of the fast-track issue. Politico even reports that Administration officials have begun to “consider a crazy possibility. . . ” that she might vote for the TPP herself, and then she is described as not wanting to embarrass her president “. . . by failing to get an authority granted to her predecessors.”

I have to say I have no sympathy for her reported view that she doesn’t want to embarrass her president in relation to fast-track/TPP, especially when I think about the issues discussed here, here, here, here, and here. And then when we look at the sovereignty issue itself, everything else pales before that, and one must ask of Pelosi, whether the issue of embarrassing her president is even in the same ballpark of gravitas as the sovereignty issue and her oath of office swearing fealty to the Constitution?

However, that aside, it has to be said that the pretended neutrality of the Leadership isn’t neutrality at all given the context of the situation. The fact is that if the Leadership is keeping the issue of whether fast-track will pass, open; then it is giving the President a chance to get the 9 Democratic votes he still needs to pass fast-track and get a big leg up on passing the TPP.

So, keeping it open is a vote for fast-track by the Leadership whether its members want to admit it or not. All that would have to happen to defeat fast-track in the House at this point is the Leadership’s commitment to 90% of the Democratic caucus to back them in this disagreement, rather than the 18 Democrats in the minority and the President, who after all isn’t even a member of the Democratic caucus and seems not to even care about their fate if he gets this national sovereignty, democracy-killing bill passed with their significant help.

The Leadership seems to be hiding its preference for fast-track and TPP behind that pretense of neutrality. But to an observer it is very easy to see that their failure to support the anti-fast-track/TPP forces, lead them, and whip for them may well turn out to be responsible for passing fast-track. And then the responsibility for its passing ought to be laid at Pelosi’s door and the door of the other two leaders.

Given that 90% of the Democratic House caucus opposes fast-track, I think it only reasonable that if Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn can’t commit to voting against fast-track right now, then they ought to immediately resign now and give way to new leadership that can rally and whip the overwhelming majority of House Democrats, who, after all, elected these “leaders,” into a firm stand against fast-track, while also making it clear to those who support it that this isn’t the Party position and that, given the very large significance of this issue for party branding and mobilization in 2016, there will be consequences for those who continue to announce support for it.

So, my message to Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn is: if you can’t back voting against fast-track and try your utmost to get all House Democrats to do so, right now, then you don’t deserve to lead the Democratic caucus. Resign now!!!!

You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

Get out of the way and let Democrats like Rosa DeLauro, Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee, and Keith Ellison carry this fight to its conclusion.

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