Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Procedural Disapproval Resolution Included for the First Time in TPA

Yesterday the Senate failed to pass a procedural vote on granting the president Trade Promotion Authority (TPA or so-called "fast-track"). As Ed Kilgore noted, this is probably not the end of the line for TPA. It will likely be brought up again very soon.

As I read opinions on both sides of the debate about this legislation, I often see an assumption that this TPA bill is exactly the same as others that have been approved in the past. Statements like this one from Senator Elizabeth Warren are regularly repeated.
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.
Here's Steve Benen saying basically the same thing.
At issue is something called “trade-promotion authority” – also known as “fast-track” – which is intended to streamline the process. As we discussed a month ago, the proposal would empower President Obama to move forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiating its specific provisions. If successful, the White House would then present a finished TPP to Congress for an up-or-down vote – with no amendments.

Lawmakers would effectively have a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity.
Those statements would be accurate if we were talking about trade promotion authority that has been approved in the past. But for the first time, the current TPA bill (you can download it from that link) contains the ability for Congress to pass a "procedural disapproval resolution" after a particular trade agreement is presented to them. Such a resolution can be presented for several reasons, but the most likely would be that it fails to adhere to the "trade negotiation objectives" outlined in the bill (IOW, a pretty open door). If such a resolution were to pass, it negates trade promotion authority and consideration of the agreement would then be open to amendments and a filibuster.

All of this is available to Congress AFTER a negotiated trade deal has been finalized and made available to the public. In other words, lawmakers would have three options:
  1. Approve the trade deal
  2. Reject the trade deal
  3. Pass a procedural disapproval resolution and open up debate on amendments
Such a resolution would require 60 votes in the Senate to pass. But given that the opponents of TPA required 60 votes to approve it, the fact that dissolving it also requires 60 votes makes sense.

1 comment:

  1. Here is Ed Kilgore's summary, courtesy of rikyrah at 3ChicsPolitico

    Fast-Track Side-Stepped By Senate Democrats

    By Ed Kilgore

    Now this is going to be a test of journalistic acumen and accuracy. This afternoon a motion to proceed on a Trade Promotion Authority (a.k.a. “fast-track”) bill failed because it gained only 52 votes of the 60 needed. Only one Democrat, Tom Carper, voted for it. So does that mean 45 Democratic Senators opposed “fast-track?” No, though that’s what you’d guess from a confusing story at The Hill by Alexander Bolton with the lede: “Senate Democrats on Tuesday delivered a stinging blow to President Obama’s trade agenda…”

    A somewhat clearer piece by WaPo’s Mike DeBonis explains that Democratic fast-track supporters, including original cosponsor of the TPA bill in question, Ron Wyden, refused to let the bill go because Republicans would not agree to schedule voters on two related bills, one on currency manipulation and another on trade preferences for African countries

    Here is the link to rikyrah's post in comments:


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