Ten days ago it seemed as if America's corporatism would finally be slowed in its tracks after the House unexpectedly killed the fast-tracking of Obamatrade, aka the fast-tracking of the Trade Promotion Authority. Alas, it was not to last, and moments ago, in a "nailbiting" 60-37 vote, the Senate advanced Obama's fast-track tarde bill.
The Senate on Tuesday voted to advance President Obama’s trade agenda, approving a measure to end debate on fast-track authority.
The 60-37 motion sets up a vote on final passage on Wednesday. If the Senate approves fast-track or trade promotion authority (TPA), it would then be sent to Obama’s desk to become law. Fast-track authority would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The White House wants the authority to conclude negotiations on a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.
Thirteen Democrats backed fast-track in Tuesday’s vote, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a major legislative victory.
They did so even though the trade package did not include a workers assistance program for people displaced by increased trade. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program was a part of the last fast-track package approved by the Senate in May, but became a key part of opposition to the package among Democrats in the House.
To move fast-track forward, the White House and GOP leaders in both chambers decided to break TAA away from fast-track, and to try to approve both in separate votes.
After the Senate votes Wednesday on final passage for fast-track, it will take a procedural vote on a package that includes TAA and trade preferences for African countries known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
McConnell has promised both bills, as well as a customs and enforcement bill favored by Democrats, will reach Obama’s desk by the end of the week.
“If we all keep working together and trusting each other, then by the end of the week the President will have TPA, TAA, and AGOA and Preferences on his desk — with Customs in the process of heading his way too,” he said on the floor.
And since the House has already passed fast-track, and now must only vote on the package including TAA, which faces token opposition from conservatives, expect the TPA and shortly thereafter, the TPP, to be enacted despite yet another round of dramatic theater by the best representatives US corporations can bribe.
Finally, as a reminder, "This Is How Little It Cost Goldman To Bribe America's Senators To Fast Track Obama's TPP Bill"
* * *
Today brings Round 2 in "the most transparent administration ever"'s attempt to pass the incredibly opaque Fast-Track Authority enabling Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific-Partnership corporate coup d'etat (and all the other trade deals currently floating around) without fear of irritation from any outsiders. However, it won't be easy-sledding as The Hill reports, labor groups led by the AFL-CIO are furiously lobbying Democrats to oppose fast-track authority when the Senate votes on a procedural motion Tuesday. Union leaders warn enabling Fast-Track prematurely would "compound its expected negative impacts, leaving U.S. workers in the lurch and depriving the U.S. manufacturing sector of vital tools necessary to combat unfair trade."
But once again - after more drama - the corporations win!
- *U.S. SENATE ADVANCES OBAMA'S FAST-TRACK TRADE LEGISLATION
But, as The Hill reports, Obama may face some trouble ahead
The measure would help Obama negotiate the largest trade deal in history with 11 other countries along the Pacific Rim by limiting interference from Congress.
Obama’s trade bill needs 60 votes, and he can afford no more than two Democratic defections who previously backed fast-track. As of Monday evening, he had not yet secured public promises from all the Democrats he needs.
Backers of fast-track likely need a dozen Democratic votes because five of the Senate’s Republicans voted against the trade package last month and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is indicating in an op-ed on Breitbart News that he will change his vote from yes to no. Cruz, who is running for president, says he is wary of backroom negotiations, expressing concern that the Export-Import Bank reauthorization will be included in the horsetrading.
The Senate’s vote Tuesday to end debate on fast-track — if it gets 60 backers — will set up a final roll call on the measure later in the day or Wednesday.
The chamber would then vote on a package of trade preferences combined with the African Growth and Opportunity Act and TAA. That measure is expected to clear Wednesday or Thursday.
Senate Democratic leaders are not whipping against fast-track, leaving it to unions to do the heavy lifting to defeat it.
The AFL-CIO urged Democrats Monday to vote against fast-track and warned they had no guarantee that TAA will pass the House, where many Republicans oppose it.
“Without assurances that TAA will pass the House, or that the customs bill will ever see the president’s desk, considering Fast Track prematurely could compound its expected negative impacts, leaving U.S. workers in the lurch and depriving the U.S. manufacturing sector of vital tools necessary to combat unfair trade,” William Samuel, the union’s director of government affairs, wrote in a letter to senators.
Heritage Action for America urged Republican senators to vote against fast-track Tuesday.
The conservative advocacy group argued that passing fast-track would pave the way for later passage of what it called the “ineffective” TAA program, which is paid for with tax penalties.
“The new pay for — included in H.R. 1295 which the Senate will also consider this week — increases revenue by raising certain tax penalties. New spending should not be offset by new revenues,” the group wrote in a legislative alert Monday.
But there are supporters, toe-ing Obama's tyrannical line...
“The trade package currently before the Senate is a blueprint for trade done right,” Wyden said in a statement. “It will make our country stronger by opening new markets to American products and creating new opportunities for good-paying American jobs.”
Supporters of fast-track argue that trade supports more than 4.7 million jobs in California.
But we leave it to Ellen Brown to sum up just what this "sentence first, verdict afterwards" bill is really all about... a corporate coup d'etat...
`Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
`No, no!’ said the Queen. `Sentence first–verdict afterwards.’
`Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!’
`Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
`I won’t!’ said Alice.
`Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.
— Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
Fast-track authority is being sought in the Senate this week for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), along with the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) and any other such trade agreements coming down the pike in the next six years. The terms of the TPP and the TiSA are so secret that drafts of the negotiations are to remain classified for four years or five years, respectively, after the deals have been passed into law. How can laws be enforced against people and governments who are not allowed to know what was negotiated?
The TPP, TiSA and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP, which covers Europe) will collectively encompass three-fourths of the world’s GDP; and they ultimately seek to encompass nearly 90 percent of GDP. Despite this enormous global impact, fast-track authority would allow the President to sign the deals before their terms have been made public, and send implementing legislation to Congress that cannot be amended or filibustered and is not subject to the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds treaty vote.
While the deals are being negotiated, lawmakers can see their terms only under the strictest secrecy, and they can be subjected to criminal prosecution for revealing those terms. What we know of them comes only through WikiLeaks. The agreements are being treated as if they were a matter of grave national security, yet they are not about troop movements or military strategy. Something else is obviously going on.
The bizarre, unconstitutional, blatantly illegal nature of this enforced secrecy was highlighted in a May 15th article by Jon Rappoport, titled “What Law Says the Text of the TPP Must Remain Secret?” He wrote:
It seems like a case of mass hypnosis. . . .
Members of Congress are scuttling around like weasels, claiming they can’t disclose what’s in this far-reaching, 12-nation trade treaty.
They can go into a sealed room and read a draft, but they can’t copy pages, and they can’t tell the public what they just read.
If there is a US law forbidding disclosure, name the law.
Can you recall anything in the Constitution that establishes secret treaties?
Is there a prior treaty that states the text of all treaties can be hidden from the people?
To Congressmen who say they cannot reveal what is in a treaty that will adversely affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, Rappoport says:
Wrong. You’re lying. You can reveal secret text. In fact, it’s your duty. Otherwise, you’re guilty of cooperating in a RICO criminal conspiracy.
A Corporate Coup d’État
What is going on was predicted by David Korten in his 1995 blockbuster, When Corporations Rule The World. Catherine Austin Fitts calls it a “corporate coup d’état.”
This corporate coup includes the privatization and offshoring of the judicial function delegated to the US court system in the Constitution, through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that strengthen existing ISDS procedures.
As explained in The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe. Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases. The secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent give wide scope for creative judgments – the sort of arbitrary edicts satirized by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, although the termination was apparently legal. Under the TPP, however, even larger and more unpredictable judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations extend not merely to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive. Just the threat of a massive damage award for impairing “expected corporate profits” could be enough to discourage prospective legislation by lawmakers.
The Trade in Services Agreement adds additional barriers to proposed legislation. TiSA involves 51 countries, including every advanced economy except the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The deal would liberalize global trade in services covering close to 80% of the US economy, including financial services, healthcare, education, engineering, telecommunications, and many more. It would restrict how governments can manage their public laws, and it could dismantle and privatize state-owned enterprises, turning those services over to the private sector. It would also block the emerging trend to return privatized services to the public sector, by limiting or prohibiting governments from creating or reestablishing public utilities and other “uncompetitive” forms of service delivery.
It seems that the TPP, TTIP and TiSA are not about the sort of “free trade” that would free local businesses to sell abroad. They are about freeing international corporations from the government regulation necessary to protect the economy, the people, and the environment. They are about preserving privatized monopolies and preventing competition from the public sector. And they are about moving litigation offshore into private arbitrary tribunals – the sort of tribunal that might have lost Alice her head, if she had not awakened from her bizarre dream.
* * *