When Will The TPP Become Law?
This blog entry is whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership which passed the Senate and the House and signed by the President will become law.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty (TPP) is a “Free Trade Agreement” between the United States and the following countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.
In general, the Free Trade Agreements, although loved by corporate America, are felt to be major reasons for the downfall of the American economy causing the loss of the American middle class, the greatest wealth inequality since the 1920s, the devastation of American manufacturing, and the race to the bottom.
The Bumpy Road of the TPP into law.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership started as a small Trade agreement between the United States and Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore back in 2005 under President George W. Bush. Similarly, The North American Trade Agreement NAFTA) was started by Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush in 1990 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in December 9, 1993 after being ratified by the House 234- 200 (Yeas: 132 GOP, 102 Dems, Nays: 43 GOP, 156 Dems) and the Senate 61-38 (Yeas: 34 GOP, 27 Dems, Nays: 10 GOP, 28 Dems).
Since the original agreement, the TPP has expanded to more countries, the biggest and latest one is Japan. One interesting note, the text (the details) of the TPP had been kept secret for many years, it was only made public in November, 2015, months after Congress had passed it. And, don’t you think that it is strange that such an enormous agreement involving 40% of the world’s GDP that there is hardly a word about it in the media?
The Tricks of Congress
Because the TPP is not popular with the public, it is extremely difficult to just introduce the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty as a simple stand-alone bill, because it could be filibustered or it could be threatened or weakened by all sorts of Amendments. So, how do you get around that? The first step was the creation of “Fast Track.” Fast Track is a special rule where members of the Senate are unable to filibuster, unable to add amendments and can only vote up or down. It was created in 1974 under President Gerald Ford and is almost used exclusively in trade agreements like NAFTA. However, Fast Track has became a dirty word and so, in 2002, Congress changed the name to the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA). As more countries signed onto the agreement, Congress finally brought up the TPA (Fast Track) for the TPP for a vote in May 2015. Going through the Senate first, even with its GOP majority, Big Business forces were afraid that it would not pass. So, in order to get more Democratic votes, the Senate coupled it with another law. This law was the Trade Adjustment Assistance Enhancement Act (TAA) – which would give compensation to workers who would be displaced by the TPP. The TPA-TAA (after barely getting past a filibuster) passed the Senate on 5/21/15 by a vote of 62-37 (Yeas: 48 GOP, 14 Dems, Nays: 5 GOP (including Rand Paul), 32 Dems & Independents (including Bernie Sanders).
The Counter Offensive by The Democrats
The bill passed by the Senate had specifically coupled the TPA with the TAA, meaning that the House had to pass both bills. House Republicans, were, then, surprisingly defeated when the Democrats voted to defeat the (Democratic favored bill) TAA on a vote of 126 – 302. Because the TAA lost, the coupled TPA became a symbolic vote. This was approved by a margin of 219-211 on June 11, 2015. It was a stunning defeat and for a moment it looked like the TPP was sunk.
Revenge of the Establishment and the GOP
The majority of the House of Representatives (ironically, the Party of No) would not take “NO” as an answer. They went back to the drawing board and tried a gamble (based on conversations of members of the House and the Senate). The House decided to de-couple the bills and see if the TPA (the Fast Track Authority) could pass alone and have it sent to the Senate where it could possibly pass – with the TAA (Worker Relief) coming later. The vote to decouple the bill and send the TPA to the Senate occurred on June 18, 2015. The strategy worked. The vote was 218-208 (Yeas: 190 GOP, 28 Dems, Nays: 50 GOP, 158 Dems).
The ultimate showdown vote came down to the Senate on June 23, 2015. This issue was to pass the TPA solely on its own.. After much arm twisting from the Obama Administration, the TPA (Fast Track) passed 60-38 (Yeas: 47 GOP, 13 Dems, Nays: 7 GOP, 31 Dems & Ind.). With the TPA passed by the Senate by itself, there was no absolute need to pass the TAA (Worker Assistance plan). But, since President Obama said he wanted the TAA passed and had the power to veto the deal, the House of Representatives allowed the TAA to a vote which passed 286-138 on June 24, 2015.
TPA is signed by President Obama
The President signed the TPA and the TAA on June 29, 2015.
On February 3, 2016, all of the Trade Ministers have signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Auckland, New Zealand under the cover of night. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, signed for President Obama.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and The Trade Adjustment Assistance Enhancement Act (TAA) have both passed the Senate and the House and has been signed by the President. So, isn’t it the law? Well, not quite.
The next step for Obama will be to send Congress the legislative text of the agreement, which he is expected to do sometime before June. Once he does that, it starts a countdown clock: House and Senate lawmakers will have 90 legislative days—that’s days the chambers are in session—to formally vote on it.
Because Congress passed the “fast-track” bill last summer, lawmakers can’t change or amend any of the language in the version of the agreement that Obama sends to them. They must vote only to ratify it, or not, in its entirety. If Congress votes to ratify it, then Obama signs it, and it goes into effect—and becomes fully enforceable—30 days later.
So When will The TPP Become Law?
At the present time, the President has enough votes in both the Senate and in the House to pass now – since both Houses are under a GOP majority. However, the TPP is very unpopular with the public (and for good reason). Both Democratic Presidential candidates said they are against it. Senator Bernie Sanders actually has always voted against the TPP/TPA. Senator Clinton was not in office to vote on the TPP, she was previously for it, but, now, on the campaign trail she says she is against it. If she becomes President of the USA, would she approve it or veto it? I can not be sure, but it is more likely that it will pass even before she takes office. What if the Republicans win the Presidency? Only one GOP Presidential candidate even mentions the TPP and that is Donald Trump. The other are definitely for the TPP (even Ted Cruz who once voted against the TPA (Fast Track) only when he knew there were enough votes to pass, because just the month before, he voted for the TPA).
Because of the unpopularity of the TPP with the public and because it is an election year, votes at this time of the year will have severe consequences in November. Because of this, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, will not bring up the bill to be ratified until after the November elections. That is right, the TPP will be passed during the lame duck session, the time after the November election and before the new members are sworn in to office in January, 2017. Talk about your dirty tricks.
Why are Free Trade Agreements Bad for the US economy
The reasons why the Free Trade Agreements are bad for the US economy are this: 1) the Free Trade treaties, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), eliminate import taxes of products into the United States, making foreign products much cheaper; 2) By agreeing to deal with these (less civilized) foreign countries, their countries, because their standard of living is so low, often pay workers (slave labor) extremely poorly without any benefits, so their products are much cheaper; 3) these countries devalue their money (which artificially makes the imports even cheaper); 4) because the Free Trade Agreements have banned quotas of imports into the country, these countries are legally able to “dump” (produce voluminously) and make imports even cheaper; and 5) American CEOs have taken advantage of these “rules” (which were made for their benefit) and have closed down American manufacturing plants, threw out millions of American workers, and move their manufacturing to places like China, Mexico and Vietnam – which makes our Trade Deficit outrageous – The US is losing $1 billion a day just to China.
Stop the TPP and save American jobs.