TPP fast-track legislation passes, but the fight is not over

Will Caron

Yesterday, June 24, the U.S. Senate voted to pass fast-track legislation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that critics say will damage the environment and accelerate outsourcing of U.S.-based jobs to the Asia-Pacific region. The economic deal also goes hand-in-hand with the United States’ military pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region, tinging the deal with the shadow of militarism and imperialism as well.

The vote came after a cloture vote on Tuesday, June 23, in which one Democrat was persuaded to flip from a ‘yes’ vote to a ‘no’ (Maryland Senator Ben Cardin). But 13 other Senate Democrats voted yes, and cloture just barely passed with 60 votes. (A cloture vote is a motion or process in parliamentary procedure aimed at bringing debate to a quick end.) Hawaii’s senators have consistently voted ‘no’ to fast-tracking the deal.

With fast-tracking now a done deal, it will become much more difficult to stop the TPP itself. There is good news though:

Fast-track passed by only two votes in the House. There is still time to flip votes in the House to reject the TPP agreement itself.

The White House has claimed that the text of the TPP isn’t final, but they’ve also hidden the draft from the public. Leaks and other reports have highlighted serious problems, but once the text is released, details may emerge that can unite progressives against it and can help flip more democrats to oppose the TPP.

Bernie Sanders has led the fight against both fast-track and the TPP itself, helping to make the issue a potential presidential one in 2016. Martin O’Malley also opposes both fast-track and the TPP. Hillary Clinton said she would have voted against fast-track in the Senate, but she hasn’t given her position on the TPP itself. If progressives can push all the democratic presidential candidates to oppose the TPP, including Hillary Clinton, it could go a long way in flipping more Congressional democrats from yes to no.

Says Robert Weissman of Public Citizen, in The Nation:

When the inexcusable and anti-democratic veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP is finally lifted, and the American people see what is actually in the agreement, they are going to force their representatives in Washington to vote that deal down.

Once the final negotiations are complete, Congress will have 90 days to review and vote on the TPP. They can’t amend it and they can’t filibuster it; the only option will be to kill it.