By Joe Guzzardi
May 26, 2015
Just before the Senate left for its Memorial Day recess, it voted 62-37 to pass President Obama’s fast-track Trade Promotion Authority bill. The vote sets up another confrontation between the House, the Senate, special interest groups and Americans, once again in danger of being turned into the political elites’ chum.
Obama has the whole-hearted support of Republican leadership, specifically Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and influential Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, but must overcome resistant Democrats. What’s odd about this equation is that Democrats have voted in unison with Obama on every major bill while Republicans campaigned and won crucial November mid-term election races by promising to defund amnesty and repeal Obamacare, two of the president’s most treasured achievements.
Yet, suddenly Democrats have lined up against Obama while Republicans are falling all over themselves to help the president fulfill his agenda. First, contrary to their campaign promises, the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t block DHS funding for Obama’s executive action amnesty. Second, the GOP confirmed Attorney General Loretta Lynch, an avowed amnesty advocate. Now, Republicans are poised to deliver Obama what would be a major trade victory.
McConnell admitted that despite his disagreement with Obama on most issues, “we’re on the same side on trade.” And Boehner insists that TPA is “critical to facilitating a more robust trade agenda to help create more jobs and opportunities for America’s families and small businesses.”
Creating more jobs is the default reasoning behind every bad trade bill that Congress tries to foist off on the public, as if the North American Free Trade Agreement never happened. Bill Clinton said in 1994: NAFTA will bring “good-paying jobs” to America. Last year, the Economic Policy Institute analyzed NAFTA on its 20th anniversary and called it “a disaster” that resulted in a net loss of 700,000 jobs, cut working Americans’ living standards because of the depressed wages it created, and jeopardized their futures.
The biggest threat to American jobs is the “temporary entry” provision that would allow thousands more foreign-born workers into the United States, mostly on L visas that have no caps. Obama has steadfastly refused to admit to or divulge the possibility of executive actions or side agreements to facilitate foreign worker expansions. In short, fast-track creates new and unlimited avenues for the White House to import more overseas workers, either openly or surreptitiously, for fast-track’s six-year duration.
The trade deal winners are multinational corporations like huge retailers who profit from reselling cheaper goods, and financial institutions that gain access to the free flow of capital. Losers include small American businesses that can’t take advantage of the same benefits trade provides to their global Fortune 500 competitors, and are consequently forced to cut production and eliminate jobs.
A close final vote is expected with intense lobbying from Obama on reluctant House Democrats, and arm-twisting from Republican leadership on its skeptical membership. TPA passage in the House is uncertain. In 1993, Clinton pushed through NAFTA with 234 votes in the House, 132 from Republicans and 102 from Democrats. The House passed the Trade Act of 2002 by just a 215-212 margin, with aye votes from 190 Republicans and only 25 Democrats.
Today, fewer Democrats support TPA than in previous years so Boehner will have to rustle up more votes from within his own party, a difficult challenge since his representatives are warily eyeing their 2016 election prospects.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]