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?