Top Two Reasons Why Congress is Slow to Give President Obama Fast Track Authority

There is one thing that the majority of Republican congress members and President Obama agree on–renewal of fast track authority, also referred to as trade promotion authority. That same support has failed to come across the aisle from the majority of the President’s own Democratic party.

President Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) met on Monday, but the chance of moving forward with fast track authority appears slim. Reid opposes fast track authority, and, according to a New York Times report, the issue did not come up during this week’s meeting.

Just last week, President Obama urged the U.S. Congress to grant him fast track authority in his State of the Union address. Fast track authority would allow the administration to conclude current free trade negotiations with the Asia-Pacific and European Union successfully. Free trade is a part of the administration’s efforts to boost U.S. productivity, grow the domestic economy, and create jobs. In addition, fast track authority would restrict U.S. Congress to only voting for or against a free trade agreement without making any amendments.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act was introduced on January 9th to give President Obama fast track authority, but resistance in the House and Senate continues to grow.

If these free trade agreements have the potential to benefit the U.S. economy and workers, why is fast track authority moving in the slow lane?

Much of the opposition to granting President Obama fast track authority comes from within his own party.

Here are two simple publicly stated reasons why many Democrats oppose fast track authority:

1. The process for approving free trade agreements is not democratic.

A November 2013 letter signed by 151 Democrats was sent to President Obama expressing concerns about the limited role that members of Congress play in shaping the final contents of current and future trade deals. Another November 2013 letter from 22 House Republicans also argued that the process of completing trade deals has been undemocratic.

The provisions within trade deals address a number of important issues such as labor, environment, food safety standards and intellectual property.

2. The trade deals currently being negotiated with 11 Asia-Pacific countries and the European Union will threaten  jobs and wages in the United States and around the world.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) held a press conference on January 23rd calling for a vote against fast track authority.


Whereas the support and opposition to fast track authority falls, for the most part, along party lines, the opposition from both parties is much greater among polled voters. Click here to see what U.S. voters are saying about fast track authority.

Now, if someone mentions fast track, you will know that it has nothing to do with short-track speed-skating in this year’s Winter Olympics.

Do you think that fast track authority should be renewed?

About Dr. Sarita D. Jackson

is the President and CEO of the Global Research Institute of International Trade, a think-tank/consulting firm that examines trade policies and their impact on domestic businesses. Prior to heading GRIIT, Dr. Jackson was a tenured associate professor of political science in North Carolina and worked as a trade policy consultant for an Arlington-based consulting firm. She has participated in trade policy projects and conducted research on free trade negotiations in Botswana, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama. Dr. Jackson has also traveled to Chile and Argentina to study their political systems and economic integration policies.
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One Response to Top Two Reasons Why Congress is Slow to Give President Obama Fast Track Authority

  1. Garry R Moore says:

    History of trade agreements is a mixed bag

    It is true that some jobs leave USA and Canada for lower wage zones in Asia and elsewhere while at the same time new jobs in new fields open up for North American workers. Often the new jobs require more education and a different set of job skills

    World is a very dynamic place – new plants are moved to lower labor cost zones every day – just because 151 members of the US Congress block fast track authority does not mean that they can protect jobs in the USA – standing still and marking time in one place will not work.

    Without fast track authority other nations will nor wish to enter into trade negotiations with the USA and watch the US Congress pick apart trade deals which took 2-3 years to develop

    World will advance – USA will be left behind protecting industries that can not compete

    Moore, Garry R – Solutions Inc

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