The decision was made last Thursday to vote on giving Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), an increase in power that would allow him to more easily pursue his giant trade agreement with 11 Asian and Pacific nations. Surprisingly, Hillary Clinton did not support of the idea.
TPA would give Obama the ability to construct trade deals on which Congress would have a “yes” or “no” vote, but not the ability to make amendments. This issue has fractured both parties and created a rare battle pitting Obama – relying on GOP votes – against most Democrats.
TPA would make it that much easier for Obama to secure his previously negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which if approved would be the largest trade accord since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994. Although the TPP might (if negotiated properly) give America a stronger foothold in foreign markets, the package also includes Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a worker retraining program that would provide federal aid to anyone losing a job due to global trade.
“It would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment, and a free and open Internet,” said Obama of the TPP.
“This TPP policy is a disaster … it must be defeated,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (admitted socialist…) on “Face the Nation” last week. Corporate America needs “to start investing in this country rather than in countries all over the world.”
As the voting date approached, demands to know Hillary’s stance on the matter grew more incessant. Pressure from fellow Democrats persuaded her to admit to being a part of the opposing team. “Make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible, and if we don’t get it, there should be no deal,” said Hillary during a recent speech in Iowa.
Of course Hillary agrees with the TAA program, but wants to drive a harder bargain than Obama had proposed. At the end of her speech, Hillary remarked that she would be the best and toughest negotiator to speak with our trading partners on behalf of American workers.
It seems Hillary doesn’t think Obama should be the one responsible for the final say in this global trade deal. I think she’s stalling so that the issue falls into the hands of the next President. Either way, many Republicans agree that Obama, a President who has overstepped his boundaries many times already, should not be given an increase in power.
“I haven’t seen any indication that we can trust the President to keep Congress in the loop,” says Republican Senator Louie Gohmert of Texas. “There have been plenty of times when he has refused to abide by the law.”
Other Republicans support the idea, affirming that the bill contains specific language that would keep the president from making future changes to immigration laws and arguing that the deal will boost the economy and create jobs.
Many Democrats, with the support of labor unions, believe the deal has been organized secretly and will prove harmful to American workers. Obama warns that if we fail to complete TPP, China will soon take control of international trade.
“Over and over again we’ve been told that trade deals will create jobs and better protect workers and the environment,” says Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. “Those promises have never come to fruition.”
The vote was cast on Friday. Despite a passionate speech just before the vote, Obama found himself on the losing side. Although supported by many Republicans, a majority of democrats – including Clinton – voted “no.”