In a vote that largely split down partisan lines, a trade deal with several nations that President Barack Obama and his administration have been trying to pass hit a roadblock after a recent vote in the U.S. Capitol Building.
On May 12, members of the U.S. Senate voted 52-45 in favor of giving Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal that 11 other nations are involved in, multiple news sources reported. The measure needed at least 60 votes in favor in order for it to go to the U.S. House of Representatives for its ratification. Made up of primarily Republicans, the House is expected to overwhelmingly approve TPA.
TPA is an issue that lawmakers have been at loggerheads over for awhile now. Those opposed to it say that it gives the chief executive too much power by preventing legislators from making any amendments. Supporters argue that the U.S. Congress must still be consulted for agreements to become binding, but TPA helps to expedite the negotiation process with other nations.
“Lawmakers are at odds over whether TPA levels the playing field for businesses.”
“The President reiterated his view, which he has shared in numerous similar conversations with members over the past several weeks, that passing TPA is an important step toward finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” the Obama administration said in a statement after the Senate vote. “[TPP is] the most progressive trade agreement in our history, which levels the playing field for American workers and puts in place new, high-standards environmental, labor and human rights protections.”
Warren: TPA only benefits big business
One of the more outspoken opponents of both TPA and TPP is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The senior senator from Massachusetts recently told National Public Radio (NPR) that TPA runs counter to the democratic process of legislating. She also noted that the trade deals that TPA helps facilitate are too heavily weighed in favor of corporations rather than small business owners.
“There are 28 working groups that have helped shape the trade deal and in those 28 working groups there are more than 500 people,” Warren told NPR. ” It turns out that 85 percent of them are either corporate executives – senior corporate executives – or lobbyists for the industries that are being affected. The way I see this, that’s a tilted process, and a tilted process yields a tilted result.”
Far more proponents than opponents of TPA
But TPA has far more supporters than it does critics. The National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, numerous editorial boards and the majority of Republicans all say that fast track is a fundamental component of the United States’ economic preeminence, noting that several president have been given TPA authority in recent years, beginning in 1974. TPA expired for new trade agreements in 2007.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also spoken out in support of TPA. Thomas Donohue testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee in April, detailing why small businesses will benefit. He also said that TPA, contrary to what opponents believe, actually strengthens Congressional oversight.
“Without TPA, the administration can pursue its own priorities at the negotiating table and consult with Congress only if and when it chooses,” said Donohue. “TPA lets Congress set negotiating goals and sets forth detailed requirements for constant consultation during negotiations.”
Close to 300 state and local chambers of commerce have sent letters to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, encouraging them to support TPA if they aren’t already.