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Senate Fast Track Vote Tuesday -- Where Is Clinton?

05/09/2015 10:19 am ET | Updated May 09, 2016
Win McNamee via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the voting process for trade promotion authority, commonly known as "fast track," to begin as early as Tuesday. If passed, fast track prohibits Congress from amending trade agreements, no matter what problems might show up, and it requires that these agreements be voted on within 90 days, limiting the debate Congress is allowed to have while also prohibiting filibusters.

Passing fast track will essentially pre-approve the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "trade" agreement before the public gets a chance to know what is in it, as well as future trade deals, regardless of who is president or what the rigged, corporate-dominated negotiating process produces.

With a vote coming as soon as Tuesday, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has not yet spoken out for or against fast track.

Rigged Process

If fast track passes, TPP's passage is inevitable. The voting environment will be similar to what happened with the "Citigroup budget" vote, when the pressure was on members to pass it with provisions that deregulated derivatives or shut down the whole government. The one difference is that with TPP, there will be a massive corporate PR campaign going on to add to the pressure. From the December post, "How "Citibank Budget" Push Foreshadows "Fast Track" For Trade Deals," explaining how they got that through:

Here are the lessons learned about how to rig a legislative process:

Control who is at the table. The deal was negotiated with Republican House and Senate Democrat leaders. It is significant that Minority Leader Pelosi was not at cromnibus negotiating table.

Leave little time to analyze the consequences. The 1,600-page deal was "announced" at the last minute. By the time the public began to learn what was in it, Congress was all ready to vote.

Make it about the deadline. The deal was announced only 51 hours before the shutdown deadline. The debate was about "Will they shut down the government?" instead of "Will they vote against the Citibank provisions?"

Allow special interests served by the deal time to prepare push-through strategy in advance. Supporters will have their forces lined up before the opposition even knows what's coming. Every step of the way, pro-democracy forces faced an uphill battle, not even knowing there was a battle until almost the last second.

Make it all or nothing. With the budget battle they couldn't take the Citibank and other bad provisions out without killing the entire "deal" and starting over.

This is much like the rigged process which has delivered fast track and will bring us the still-secret TPP.

Secret From Public, Little News Coverage

Add to this the fact that there is very little information that is widely available to the public about fast track and TPP. There really isn't much in the news, particularly on the widely watched network news, about fast track, what it is, what it means to people, as well as public back-and-forth discussion of the merits and consequences. So, this Senate vote will occur largely outside of public attention. Yet, it sets up what even Obama describes as "rewriting the rules for doing business in the 21st century."

When NAFTA was coming up for a vote, there was tremendous news coverage. I remember a widely watched public debate between third party presidential candidate Ross Perot and Al Gore. Clinton and Gore promised that jobs and prosperity would result -- just as TPP is being sold today. (See "Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton's On NAFTA.") Ross Perot said there would be a "giant sucking sound" as jobs are sucked out of the country. Perot was right.

Where Is Clinton?

The Senate is scheduled to start voting on fast track as soon as next Tuesday. It is time for candidate Clinton to express where she stands on this. In the post, "With Sanders in the Race, Clinton Can't Dodge Trade," Mary Bottari wrote:

On April 17, shortly after the Fast Track trade bill was introduced in Congress, Sanderschallenged candidates for the White House to take a stand on the bill and on the two pending trade agreements, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe...

But before the two trade skeptics could start their discussion, Clinton aides put out a statement: "Any new trade measure has to pass two tests: First, it should put us in a position to protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home. Second, it must also strengthen our national security."

The statement not only sounded strong, it set a remarkable new standard for trade agreements: raising, not lowering U.S. wages. Unfortunately, it didn't answer the challenge. Is Clinton for this Fast Track bill? And is she for or against Fast Track and the TPP which would put U.S. workers in direct competition with workers in Vietnam whose average wage is 75 cents an hour?

Clinton has chosen to remain above the fray, issuing a statement saying she was "closely watching" to see if the treaty meets the standards of protecting workers and serving our national security. "Closely watching" isn't exactly the expected behavior of a "champion of everyday people," but it will have to do.

[. . .] Clinton announced her campaign saying she wanted to be a "champion of everyday people." When the battle is joined and the fighting is fierce, champions do not stand on the sidelines. They aren't "closing watching" to see who wins. They are leading, lifting spirits, pointing the way. The president has raised the furies around fast track. It is time for Clinton to take a stand.

Well, we're here. This is it. Is Clinton going to show up or not? If she shows up will she stand with Wall Street, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, the Chamber of Commerce, companies like Nike and President Obama? Or will she stand with almost all Democrats, all progressives, all of labor, over 2,000 organizations and the 99 percent of us who aren't really, really rich?

The Senate voting process on fast track begins Tuesday. Where is Clinton?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.