She begins with her ongoing issue about how the text of the agreement is secret. But when Sargent pushes back with the fact that it will be public for 60 days before Congress takes it up, her criticism shifts from being about the agreement itself to the specifics of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA - or so-called "fast-track').
The president has committed only to letting the public see this deal after Congress votes to authorize fast track. At that point it will be impossible for us to amend the agreement or to block any part of it without tanking the whole TPP. The TPP is basically done.But then she has to back track even further when Sargent points out that the trade promotion authority that will be under consideration in the Senate beginning this week includes the ability for Congress to revoke it if the agreement isn't to their liking. At that point her only argument is that it would take a "majority" (I assume she actually meant "super-majority" - or 60 votes) to revoke it.
I'm really glad Sargent brought this up. It is the first time a provision like that has been included in TPA legislation. In the bill itself, it is referred to as a "procedural disapproval resolution." That process is available to Congress to shut down TPA (and go back to allowing amendments and potentially 60 votes for passage) for several reasons - including if the final TPP deal does not adhere to the "trade negotiating objectives" that are laid out in the bill.
Senator Warren is right that a procedural disapproval resolution would require 60 votes in the Senate whereas the same legislation would allow TPP to pass with 51 votes. What that means is that the scales of the Senate - which have been tilted in favor of bills NOT passing by the overuse of the filibuster - would tilt this time in favor of TPP passing. That's all her complaint boils down to.
Next Sargent asks Sen. Warren about a provision in TPP called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) - which Warren has claimed would provide an opportunity to dismantle elements of Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform. He asks her whether or not she can envision an ISDS provision she could support. It's interesting to notice that he has to ask that question three times before he gets an answer. So kudos to Sargent for being persistent. In the end, the issue she identifies is that it is a process that is exclusively available to corporations.
Now, if a labor union says, ‘Vietnam promised not to work people for a couple of dollars a day, and to raise working conditions, and then failed to do it,” they have to get the U.S. government, through the trade rules, to go to Vietnam and prosecute the case. If corporations had to do the same thing, then it would be a level playing field…ISDS gives a special break to giant corporations, a break that nobody else gets.In other words, labor unions would have to go through the court system in Vietnam (which could obviously be problematic) whereas corporations could take their case to arbitration with a UN or WTO panel. That might be cause for concern, but suggests that perhaps ISDS should be available more broadly rather than eliminated.
Finally, the conversation once again leaves the specifics of the trade deal itself and goes back to granting the president trade promotion authority. It's important to note that TPA would not simply be in effect for this particular trade deal. It generally gives the U.S. president trade authority for the next six years. That's where Warren's next issue comes into play.
Because trade will be fast tracked for six years….A direct run at Dodd Frank potentially takes 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. But doing it through trade authority needs to be done with 51 votes.This is where President Obama's suggestion about hypotheticals comes into play. IF a Republican is elected president in 2016 and IF he has a majority in the Senate and if IF they decide it is prudent to take on Dodd Frank, it would only take them 51 votes to give it a go within a trade agreement - of course, assuming they could get their potential trading partners to go along. Whew!
There is definitely a valid concern couched in there. But in the end, we're down to that same argument about the number of votes needed in the Senate - 51 or 60 - rather than a substantive complaint. It actually sounds more like Senator Warren's concerns have to do with the rules and make-up of the Senate than they are about TPP.