Politics Magazine

The TPP Didn't Pass Last Week - But It's Not Dead Yet

Posted on the 17 June 2015 by Jobsanger
The TPP Didn't Pass Last Week - But It's Not Dead Yet (This cartoon image, found at The Daily Call, is by Brian Duffy.)
The GOP House leadership wants the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to pass, even though it is being negotiated by the president they hate. They want it because the giant corporations want it -- and they get too much money from those corporations to oppose anything they want. But they had a problem -- they weren't at all sure that they had the votes to pass it. Many in their own party didn't like the provision in the bill that would supply help to workers that lost jobs because of the TPP, and many Democrats didn't like the portions of the bill that would give enormous power to corporations and encourage more offshoring of jobs.
So those GOP House leaders thought up a "brilliant" plan to get it passed. They decided to divide the Senate-passed bill into three parts -- with part one providing funds for displaced workers, part two giving the president fast-track authority, and part three punishing nations that tried to subvert the agreement by doing things like manipulating their currency. They figured the Democrats (with a few Republicans) would provide a victory for part one, and they could count on their own party members (with a few Democrats) to pass parts two and three.
But House Democrats saw through the devious plan, and they turned the table on GOP leaders. They joined the right-wing Republicans who hated part one, and voted against it. That meant part one went down to a crushing defeat, with over 300 "no" votes. Parts two and three were passed, but the bill could not be sent to the president without part one -- and that left House leaders in a quandary.
Speaker Boehner immediately called for another vote on part one of the bill, and it was thought that vote could happen as soon as this week. But over the weekend, it became clear they could not get enough members to change their votes in time to get it passed this week. The best they could do is extend the deadline for passage of the bill to July 30th -- giving them another month-and-a-half to find a solution and get the TPP bill passed.
They have three options, which are described below by Scott Long and Mike Lillia in The Hill. I don't think option three is viable, because Senate Democrats would not accept it. Option one is also a long shot, because it would require most of the Democratic caucus to change their votes. That leaves option two, which I believe is the avenue they will finally choose -- but it is not a sure thing either. It will be interesting to watch the political machinations regarding this bill in the next few days (or weeks). It still could go either way -- a victory or a defeat for the TPP. Here are their options:
VOTE ON TAA AGAIN What might be the easiest of several options is still a heavy lift for backers of the president’s trade agenda. As GOP leaders have suggested, the House could soon vote again on the workers aid program — a vote that, if successful, would send the fast-track legislation to Obama’s desk. The challenge is that, following Friday’s 126-302 vote against TAA, Obama and Boehner need more than 90 lawmakers to switch their votes from no to yes. And after bucking the president and voting to derail his trade package on Friday, there are few political upsides for Democrats to reverse course now. Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), a pro-trade Democrat, said Monday that he’s pushing the idea of sweetening TAA to provide Democrats more incentive to get on board — something along the lines of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) recent proposal to include a highway funding bill alongside trade legislation. “I think we could get a few more Republicans, but the question is: How do you get more Democrats over here?” Cuellar said. While it’s highly improbable Democratic rebels would switch their TAA votes en masse, there are a handful who expressed a willingness to reconsider their votes the second time around. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, who like Obama is a Chicago Democrat, initially told his colleagues during a closed-door caucus meeting last week he would vote for the aid bill and against fast-track. But when the vote was called Friday, he reneged and voted against both. His spokesman said Gutiérrez “wanted to make clear that he opposed TPA.” On the GOP side, leadership aides have said they don’t expect to add many more Republicans to their TAA tally. They’ve topped out at around 93 GOP yes votes, and Democrats must vote for TAA if they don’t want the multibillion-dollar program to expire in September, aides said. But one GOP lawmaker predicted there were dozens of other Republicans prepared to switch their votes to yes if there was movement on the Democratic side of the aisle. “I think that there are probably 30 to 40 Republicans that would change their vote from no to yes, and so they are trying to get another 30 to 40 Democrats from no to yes so that they can move it forward,” the GOP lawmaker said Monday. Lawmakers watching Friday’s failed TAA roll call on the electronic vote board said there was a group of Republicans who waited until the last second to cast their vote, suggesting they might be open to supporting the aid legislation. They included North Carolina Reps. Richard Hudson and George Holding, GOP sources said, though a Hudson aide denied he would flip his vote. Another possible yes vote is conservative Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who had been whipping support for the fast-track bill but voted no on TAA. “People like that could potentially switch,” the GOP lawmaker said.
VOTE ON ENTIRE SENATE TRADE PACKAGE The Senate-passed trade bill, which combined TAA and TPA, was cobbled together to attract enough bipartisan support to defeat a Democratic filibuster. It just squeaked by, with 62 senators — including 14 Democrats — voting in favor. House GOP leaders decided to split the package into separate votes, hoping there would be enough Democratic support to move the TAA piece, while Republicans would do the heavy lifting on TPA. That strategy collapsed when Democrats, behind Pelosi, killed TAA. If TAA fails a second time, GOP leaders might decide to push the Senate package as a whole. Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), another pro-trade Democrat, predicted Monday that they have the votes to pass it, though it would be a nail-biter due to opposition on both sides of the aisle. “I don’t think there’s some magic formula that President Obama can put on the table and make all of the Democratic concerns about TPA disappear. And I don’t think there’s some magic formula that John Boehner can put on the table to make all of the Republican concerns about TAA disappear,” Connolly said. “I don’t think there are any easy options here.” A House Democratic leadership aide said Monday that there wouldn’t likely be any significant Democratic defections, making the whip counting easier for Republicans whipping the vote. “Any Democrat who is already on the record supporting TPA has a very clear, vested interest in seeing it pass,” said the aide, whose boss supports Obama’s trade agenda.
VOTE ON A STAND-ALONE TPA BILL A third option: The House could vote again on just the fast-track bill and either send it to the Senate or try to merge it with the Senate-passed package. But both of those scenarios have their challenges. Because a stand-alone TPA bill would not be tied to a workers’ aid provision, aides believe the legislation would lose support from the 14 Senate Democrats who helped pass it last time. The absence of the TAA legislation would also erode support in the White House. Cuellar said he’s been in several conversations with administration officials since Friday’s vote, and they’ve vowed not to back any trade package that excludes the additional help for workers displaced by trade deals. “They personally told me they’re not going to deal without TAA,” he said.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog