by Nancy LeTourneau
As we've seen, President Obama is pressing back pretty effectively against the opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. It is clear that his arguments are having an effect when you look at the interview Greg Sargent published today with Senator Elizabeth Warren.
She begins with her ongoing issue about how the text of the agreement is secret. But when Sargent pushes back with the fact that it will be public for 60 days before Congress takes it up, her criticism shifts from being about the agreement itself to the specifics of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA - or so-called "fast-track').
The president has committed only to letting the public see this deal after Congress votes to authorize fast track. At that point it will be impossible for us to amend the agreement or to block any part of it without tanking the whole TPP. The TPP is basically done.But then she has to back track even further when Sargent points out that the trade promotion authority that will be under consideration in the Senate beginning this week includes the ability for Congress to revoke it if the agreement isn't to their liking. At that point her only argument is that it would take a "majority" (I assume she actually meant "super-majority" - or 60 votes) to revoke it.
I'm really glad Sargent brought this up. It is the first time a provision like that has been included in TPA legislation. In the bill itself, it is referred to as a "procedural disapproval resolution." That process is available to Congress to shut down TPA (and go back to allowing amendments and potentially 60 votes for passage) for several reasons - including if the final TPP deal does not adhere to the "trade negotiating objectives" that are laid out in the bill.
Senator Warren is right that a procedural disapproval resolution would require 60 votes in the Senate whereas the same legislation would allow TPP to pass with 51 votes. What that means is that the scales of the Senate - which have been tilted in favor of bills NOT passing by the overuse of the filibuster - would tilt this time in favor of TPP passing. That's all her complaint boils down to.
Next Sargent asks Sen. Warren about a provision in TPP called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) - which Warren has claimed would provide an opportunity to dismantle elements of Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform. He asks her whether or not she can envision an ISDS provision she could support. It's interesting to notice that he has to ask that question three times before he gets an answer. So kudos to Sargent for being persistent. In the end, the issue she identifies is that it is a process that is exclusively available to corporations.