Former Rep. Frank urges White House, Congress to drop efforts to pass TPP

Former Rep. Frank urges White House, Congress to drop efforts to pass TPP
© Getty Images

A former Massachusetts Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday that President Obama and congressional leaders should forgo efforts to pass a Pacific Rim trade deal this year.

Former Rep. Barney Frank said trying to move the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress after the November elections could further erode Americans’ withering confidence in the federal government.


“The very act of their trying would further contaminate our already toxic political culture,” Frank wrote in an op-ed in the Boston Globe.

“And while sometimes the substantive value of succeeding justifies risking the downside of a failed attempt, winning in this case would do more damage than losing,” he said.

Frank said he opposes the TPP in its current form because there are no measures to offset the negative effects of trade such as job losses.

"What impact should this overwhelming verdict have on the plan to ratify the pact in the post-election session? I can sum it up in six letters: RIP, TPP," he said. 

Frank said that regardless of TPP’s merits “those who understand that public anger over the economic status quo has reached a level that will have damaging consequences for our ability to govern ourselves should do what they usually urge on others: put our long-term interest in the health of our democracy ahead of their particular economic concern." 

The presidential campaigns of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWorld passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Sirota: Biden has not fulfilled campaign promise of combating union-busting tactics Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (I-Vt.) and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE, the Republican's presumptive nominee, have riled up middle-class voters who say they are being left behind. 

Sanders, Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE all oppose the TPP.

Clinton has said she would look to rework the agreement while Trump has said he would scrap all trade deals and start anew.

The negativity permeating the political landscape has proven difficult to combat and passing the trade deal would only stir up that sentiment, Frank said. 

“Figuring out a strategy to combat this excessive negativism among the public is hard,” Frank wrote.  

“But it is easy to think of something that would greatly exacerbate it: having the president, the Speaker, and the majority leader press a reluctant Congress to ratify a widely unpopular trade bill just weeks after a presidential campaign in which the overwhelming majority of voters selected two anti-TPP candidates for president and elected one of them in November," he said. 

Frank argued that any move to pass TPP would further confirm a view heard widely during the primary season "that the system is rigged for the rich and powerful and that the voters have no real say in what the federal government does" and passage will only go to show that a short-term gain can lead to long-term harm.

The White House is urging Congress to take a vote before the president leaves office and in turn they are ramping up those efforts to get TPP approved. 

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report MORE said failing to pass the massive TPP agreement will risk U.S. political, economic and strategic leadership in the rapidly growing region.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' MORE (R-Ky.) has said the TPP doesn’t have a chance of coming up for consideration until after the November elections. 

House leaders — Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) or House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyBuchanan to seek top GOP position on Ways and Means Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (R-Texas) — have yet to suggest a specific time frame for a vote, saying they want to see if the Obama administration will address and resolve their concerns about the deal.

"Opposition to TPP was one of the few issues that most of the candidates agreed on this year," Frank said.

"And strong opposition to the deal was not just a stand-alone position on one specific issue," he said.

"It was one of the most important manifestations of a profound repudiation of what voters saw as a deeply unfair economic system, in which trade has played a significant role."