Dems reject ‘fast-track’ power for Obama

More than 150 House Democrats said Wednesday they would oppose the White House’s bid for “fast-track” trade authority while accusing the administration of keeping them in the dark about international negotiations.

In a letter to President Obama, the lawmakers said White House trade promotion authority (TPA) would further limit their power to help shape the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade pacts, which have major domestic policy implications.

“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,” the letter reads.

ADVERTISEMENT
The fast-track authority allows the president to send negotiated trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote, and provides for no amendment process. TPA approval gives negotiators greater assurance that the terms of their deals are set in stone, though critics argue that regulating commerce is the province of Congress.

Congress last approved fast-track power in 2002. It expired five years later and has not been renewed.

The 12-nation TPP could affect a broad range of policies beyond traditional tariff issues, ranging from food safety standards to regulations on the financial sector.

Negotiators, who expect to complete talks by the end of the year, have kept the details close to the vest.

“We remain deeply troubled by the continued lack of adequate congressional consultation in many areas of the proposed pact that deeply implicates Congress' constitutional and domestic policy authorities,” the lawmakers wrote.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who is helping to lead the charge against TPA authority for Obama, pointed to a loss of more than 5 million American manufacturing jobs since enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed almost two decades ago.

“Unfortunately, in my view, it appears the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty will continue to move trade policy in the wrong direction,” DeLauro said. “It is past time for members of Congress, as representatives of the people, to reassert our authority when it comes to these trade agreements.”

In opposing fast-track authority, the coalition of 151 lawmakers aligns itself on the issue with unlikely allies from the GOP’s conservative wing, who pushed back against the idea earlier this week.