UPDATE: SENATE VOTES TODAY ON “FAST TRACK,” FOLLOWING LAST WEEK’S PASSAGE BY HOUSE
NWV News writer Sarah Foster
Posted 1:00 AM Pacific
June 23, 2015
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WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a procedural process that could determine whether President Obama is given the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – or “fast track” -- he’s demanding as a key part of his trade agenda, authority that would give him and his successor the power over the next six years to move at least three massive, highly secretive trade deals through Congress with virtually no congressional input, debate or oversight.
The vote comes less than a week after GOP leaders, on Thursday, rammed the “fast track” measure through the House by a narrow margin of 218-208. Roll Call 374.
This is the last chance to stop fast track “before it’s too late,” warns Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in a statement posted by Breitbart News. “If cloture is invoked, the bill will pass the Senate and go to the President’s desk.”
Sessions has been one of the most outspoken among those leading the fight in the Senate against TPA, attempting to raise awareness among his GOP colleagues of the dangers within the proposed measure. As NewsWithViews reported, on May 22 the Senate approved TPA, by a roll call vote of 62-37, with only five Republicans voting no. Sessions hopes there will be some changes, in light of information that has come out.
“Second chances do not come often,” he declares. “We now have new information and a new vote. Which means the Senate has a second chance to slow down and demand answers about the President plans before agreeing to fast-tract their adoption.”
Following the House action, the TPA -- which the Senate had approved last month as part of a two-bill package (H.R. 1314) -- was sent over to the Senate for a re-vote as a stand-alone bill, with a different number: H.R. 2146.
With the trade bill returning to the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday evening launched a preemptive strike against expected opposition by "filling the tree" to prevent further amendments and filing cloture for Tuesday, June 23, with a final vote on Wednesday.
“This puts the Senate on a procedural glide-path to consider and then pass the [fast track] bill,” McConnell said.
Cloture is the only way the Senate can limit a speaker’s time. It requires 60 votes (three-fifths of the body), a fairly high threshold, but one that sends a signal as to the likely fate of a measure. If the Senate votes for cloture, it’s a pretty good indication that the bill itself will be approved, as well as other dependent measures that require a bill like TPA to advance them.
TPA is basically an enabler. What has really inspired such a powerful opposition across the political spectrum, bringing together activists of all political points of view, are the three secret treaties waiting offstage for approval by a Congress that has not been allowed to see them: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade In Services Agreement (TISA).
Of these, the TPP is the one most likely to be the first brought forth from the shadows and presented to the Senate for up-or-down approval. Because TPP and the other agreements must be passed without amendments, promoters realize that the only way to make this happen is for the president to have overriding power – hence the pressure to approve TPA at this time.
“The fact is, President Obama’s negotiating partners don’t want to finish the TPP negotiations until TPA passes.” writes Neil Stevens at RedState.com. “Until TPA passes, the draft TPP documents will remain secret. That’s a problem because everyone knows the TPA vote is being pushed now because of the TPP, and telling GOP voters we have to pass the TPA to find out what’s in the TPP is just the worst messaging ever.
“And conservatives are getting savvy to this sort of procedural vote in the Senate. Conservatives know that it’s not the vote for passage that matters, it’s the vote on cloture that decides whether the bill will pass. So, to the activist base, the TPA vote smells like the real vote on TPP. Can you blame them? TPA, like cloture, is a rule the Congress imposes on itself to force an up-or-down vote.”
Ironically, it appears Sen. McConnell has taken a page from Sen. Harry Reid’s playbook, and is engaging in the same tactics the senator from Nevada used when he was the majority leader – tactics which drew sharp criticism at the time from Sen. McConnell and others.
Through the use of cloture, the Senate will operate in a closed debate process, with the length of time allowed for debate sharply limited.
Another tactic is to “fill the tree,” in which a piece of legislation in the Senate has all of its possible opportunities for amendments filled by the majority leader in order to block the introduction of amendments by other senators, a tactic frequently employed by Reid.
Not surprisingly, McConnell’s actions have drawn fire from reporters and colleagues, and unfavorable comparisons to his predecessor.
“On Tuesday, any Republican senators who vote with McConnell in favor of cloture on TPA—which would provide the president fast-track authority to speed through Congress with little to no oversight at least three highly secretive trade deals—will be surrendering their right to criticize Reid’s handling of the Senate last Congress,” says Matthew Boyle at Breitbart News. “That’s because McConnell literally will use Reid’s choice of tactics to block any amendments to the version of TPA that passed the House: the Senate leader will fill the amendment tree so as to keep any other U.S. senators from offering any amendments.”
“McConnell’s willingness to employ the same tactics he and other Republicans decried as amounting to a ‘dictatorship’ reveals the emptiness of his rhetoric and vision for the Senate,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Breitbart News when McConnell filled the amendment tree.
Selected Earlier Stories
- Sarah Foster: GOP
Pushing Trade that Hands Power to President, Vote Expected Friday.
June 11, 2015
2 - Sarah Foster: UPDATE: House Passes Part of Trade Package, but Game Not Over -- Second Vote Expected Tuesday. June 15, 2015
3 - Devvy Kidd: Boehner and McConnell Working to Kill Off America As We Know It: TPP. May 11, 2015
4 - Devvy Kidd: It's War: Stop the TPP and TAFTA. Jan. 26, 2014
5 - Scott Tips: The Flattening Forces of Globalization Continue to Advance. Sept. 14, 2014
6 - Scott Tips: The TransPacific Slam Job. Sept. 16, 2012
7 - Chuck Baldwin: Democrats and GOP Rebels Save the Day on Obamatrade. June 17, 2015
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