Congress Voices Bipartisan Opposition to Fast Track

FastTrackDCFair trade advocates are praising the release of a new letter voicing Congressional opposition to Fast Track, a policy-making process that allows trade pacts to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.

The November 13th letter (below), spearheaded by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), was signed by three quarters of the House Democratic Caucus, and comes on top of other recent letters signed by Republicans and Democratic members of the Ways & Means Committee.  Taken together, the letters demonstrate a strong bipartisan demand for better oversight over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement than Fast Track would allow.

“With trade negotiators rushing to conclude the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s heartening that so many Members of Congress are standing up and demanding that each provision of the pact be scrutinized to ensure that it is in the best interests of working families,” said United Brotherhood of Carpenters General President Douglas J. McCarron.  “The middle class cannot afford for the TPP to become a ‘NAFTA of the Pacific,’ and at this stage in the game, only real Congressional oversight and intervention will prevent that from occurring.”

“The Trans-Pacific deal will affect working families, environmental protections, energy policy, food safety and more,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  “Congress is right to want to do its job and have oversight over expansive trade pacts.  Using Fast Track is like removing the seat belts and airbags from a vehicle and racing it toward its final destination.  It’s an egregious way to speed up trade deals, which all too often put foreign corporations before families and communities.”

The 151-signature DeLauro-Miller letter sent to the President states, “we will oppose ‘Fast Track’ Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.”  Signers include 18 of 21 Ranking Members from the full committees and 73 from subcommittees, as well as other important members of Democratic Party leadership.

While seven members of the Ways & Means Committee did sign the DeLauro-Miller letter, an additional letter from Democratic Ways & Means members, led by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), was also sent to the President just days before, stating that any new trade authority “must reflect the changing nature of international trade and ensure that Congress plays a more meaningful role in the negotiating process than in the 2002 TPA [Trade Promotion Authority].”

Republicans have also expressed opposition to Fast Track, including through one 23-person letter, led by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) and signed by diverse GOP House members from Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and John Mica (R-FL) to Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve Stockman (R-TX) to Frank Lobiondo (R-NJ) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), stated, “we do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for ‘Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.’”

“This isn’t a left-right issue; it’s a right-wrong issue,” said Citizens Trade Campaign Executive Director Arthur Stamoulis.  “All Members of Congress should add their voices to the chorus opposing Fast Track’s outrageously anti-democratic type of policy making.”

The Obama administration’s Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and various corporate lobby groups have urged Congress to pass new Fast Track legislation for the TPP and other pending trade agreements.  The administration has said they are pushing to complete the TPP negotiations by the end of 2013, although few observers believe they will meet that deadline.

“Trade negotiators from other countries should be aware that the U.S. Congress will demand more of them on currency, labor, the environment and other topics than USTR appears to be doing,” said Stamoulis.  “Likewise, many Members of Congress have a strong distaste for USTR’s extreme positions on medicine patents and special investment courts.”

SUPPORT ENHANCED CONGRESSIONAL ROLE IN TRADE PACTS

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our serious concern with the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a potential agreement of tremendous consequence for our country. Specifically, we remain deeply troubled by the continued lack of adequate congressional consultation in many areas of the proposed pact that deeply implicate Congress’ constitutional and domestic policy authorities.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.  Many have raised concerns relating to reports about the agreement’s proposed content.  While your Administration’s goal was to sign a TPP FTA at the October 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, we believe that to date the process has failed to provide adequate consultation with Congress.

Such opportunity for input from Congress is critical as the TPP FTA will include binding obligations that touch upon a wide swath of policy matters under the authority of Congress.  Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

In light of the broad scope of today’s trade agreements, it is even more vital that Congress have a fulsome role in shaping these pacts’ terms. Given our concerns, we will oppose  “Fast Track” Trade

Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

For instance, an agreement that does not specifically meet congressional negotiating objectives must not receive preferential consideration in Congress.  A new trade agreement negotiation and approval process that restores a robust role for Congress is essential to achieving U.S. trade agreements that can secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy in the era of globalization.

Twentieth Century “Fast Track” is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced.  The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better.

We are deeply committed to transforming U.S. trade policy into a tool for creating and retaining family-wage jobs in America, safeguarding the environment, maintaining consumer protection and improving the quality of life throughout the country.   We look forward to working with you to ensure that Congress and the Executive Branch are working together to meet that critical goal.

Sincerely,

ROSA DeLAURO          GEORGE MILLER

Full List of Signers

Andrews Robert NJ01
Barber Ron AZ02
Bass Karen CA37
Beatty Joyce OH03
Bishop Sanford GA02
Bishop Timothy NY01
Brady Robert PA01
Braley Bruce IA01
Brown Corrine FL05
Brownley Julia CA26
Bustos Cheri IL17
Butterfield G. NC01
Capps Lois CA24
Carson André IN07
Cartwright Matt PA17
Castor Kathy FL14
Chu Judy CA27
Cicilline David RI01
Clarke Yvette NY09
Cleaver Emanuel MO05
Clyburn James SC06
Cohen Steve TN09
Conyers John MI13
Courtney Joe CT02
Cummings Elijah MD07
Davis Danny IL07
DeFazio Peter OR04
DeLauro Rosa CT03
Deutch Theodore FL21
Dingell John MI12
Doggett Lloyd TX35
Doyle Michael PA14
Edwards Donna MD04
Ellison Keith MN05
Engel Eliot NY16
Enyart William IL12
Eshoo Anna CA18
Esty Elizabeth CT05
Farr Sam CA20
Fattah Chaka PA02
Frankel Lois FL22
Fudge Marcia OH11
Gabbard Tulsi HI02
Garamendi John CA03
Grayson Alan FL09
Green Al TX09
Green Gene TX29
Grijalva Raúl AZ03
Gutiérrez Luis IL04
Hahn Janice CA44
Hanabusa Colleen HI01
Hastings Alcee FL20
Higgins Brian NY26
Hinojosa Rubén TX15
Holt Rush NJ12
Honda Michael CA17
Horsford Steven NV04
Huffman Jared CA02
Israel Steve NY03
Jackson Lee Sheila TX18
Jeffries Hakeem NY08
Johnson Eddie TX30
Johnson Henry GA04
Kaptur Marcy OH09
Keating William MA09
Kelly Robin IL02
Kennedy Joseph MA04
Kildee Daniel MI05
Kirkpatrick Ann AZ01
Kuster Ann NH02
Langevin James RI02
Lee Barbara CA13
Lewis John GA05
Lipinski Daniel IL03
Loebsack David IA02
Lofgren Zoe CA19
Lowenthal Alan CA47
Lowey Nita NY17
Luján Ben NM03
Lujan Grisham Michelle NM01
Lynch Stephen MA08
Maffei Daniel NY24
Maloney Sean NY18
Maloney Carolyn NY12
McCarthy Carolyn NY04
McCollum Betty MN04
McDermott Jim WA07
McGovern James MA02
McIntyre Mike NC07
McNerney Jerry CA09
Meng Grace NY06
Michaud Michael ME02
Miller George CA11
Moore Gwen WI04
Murphy Patrick FL18
Nadler Jerrold NY10
Napolitano Grace CA32
Negrete McLeod Gloria CA35
Nolan Richard MN08
Norton Eleanor Holmes DC00
O’Rourke Beto TX16
Owens William NY21
Pallone Frank NJ06
Pascrell Bill NJ09
Pastor Ed AZ07
Payne Donald NJ10
Peters Gary MI14
Peters Scott CA52
Peterson Collin MN07
Pingree Chellie ME01
Pocan Mark WI02
Rahall Nick WV03
Roybal-Allard Lucille CA40
Ruiz Raul CA36
Ruppersberger C. MD02
Rush Bobby IL01
Ryan Tim OH13
Sanchez Loretta CA46
Sánchez Linda CA38
Sarbanes John MD03
Schakowsky Janice IL09
Schiff Adam CA28
Schrader Kurt OR05
Schwartz Allyson PA13
Scott David GA13
Scott Robert VA03
Serrano José NY15
Sewell Terri AL07
Shea-Porter Carol NH01
Sherman Brad CA30
Sinema Kyrsten AZ09
Sires Albio NJ08
Slaughter Louise NY25
Speier Jackie CA14
Swalwell Eric CA15
Takano Mark CA41
Thompson Bennie MS02
Tierney John MA06
Titus Dina NV01
Tonko Paul NY20
Tsongas Niki MA03
Vargas Juan CA51
Vela Filemon TX34
Velázquez Nydia NY07
Visclosky Peter IN01
Walz Timothy MN01
Waters Maxine CA43
Waxman Henry CA33
Welch Peter VT00
Wilson Frederica FL24
Yarmuth John KY03
Tags: ,