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MT Senate Demands Baucus Reject "Fast Track" & "Free" Trade

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

All successful movements understand the use of both the carrot and the stick. Today, the Progressive States Network, the Citizens Trade Campaign, and local labor/environmental/agriculture groups show what an effective stick looks like here in Montana, as they helped the Montana State Senate overwhelmingly pass a resolution demanding Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) use his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee to reject President Bush's request for "fast track" trade authority. The full press release from the Progressive States Network is at the end of this post.

Make no mistake about it: the Senate resolution, authored by fair trade champion Sen. Jim Elliott (D-Trout Creek), is no small accomplishment: Baucus, by virtue of his chairmanship, is the single most powerful lawmaker in Congress when it comes to "free" trade, and "fast track" is the single most important "free" trade policy because it gives presidents the ability to ram lobbyist-written pacts through Congress without any labor, human rights or environmental standards. Additionally, Baucus used the very first day of his chairmanship to author an op-ed on the Wall Street Journal's right-wing editorial page demanding Congress support Bush's request for "fast track" reauthorization - a move that made K Street lobbyists cheer, but should make the rest of us retch.

Here's the full press release. It will be interesting to see Baucus's reaction. In just the last week his language on trade seems to have changed - but whether that rhetorical shift means a policy shift is anyone's guess. This is, after all, the guy who traveled to India to give a speech trumpeting job outsourcing.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 27, 2006

Contact: Joel Barkin at 202-441-5247

MT SENATE TELLS BAUCUS TO REJECT "FAST TRACK"

Montana Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Good Jobs & Democracy Act Sending Signal to Congressional Delegation to Reverse Course on Trade

The Montana State Senate fired a shot across the bow of current U.S. trade policy today, overwhelmingly passing (45 to 5) a resolution calling on Congress to reject the President's "Fast Track" trade promotion authority that has been used to negotiate bad trade deals that limit opportunity for workers and state legislatures' ability to govern.

Fast Track authority, which is set to expire June 30 of this year, delegates to the president Congress' trade policymaking authority. Fast Track has enabled passage of controversial trade deals including NAFTA, CAFTA and the World Trade Organization, which have all accelerated a trade and jobs crisis, marked by a near $800 billion trade deficit and stagnated wages.

Under these Fast Track-enabled trade policies, Montana's ability to create and enact its own laws is in jeopardy due to overreaching trade agreements that incorporate rules that have little to do with trade. Many of these trade pact rules contradict Montana laws that were already democratically enacted by state government.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus is a key figure in the Fast Track debate. His chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade policy, is critical in deciding the future of Fast Track and related policies. In the past he has been instrumental in the passage of Fast Track, a tenuous position in a state as economically populist as Montana. By contrast, this month the Sidney Herald reported that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is "against fast track," quoting the freshman lawmaker as saying: "I don't care if the president is a Democrat or a Republican, I think legislators need to scrutinize these things."

"Montanans are fortunate to have its senior senator play a key role in the debate over Fast Track and how to address failed trade deals like NAFTA. While it may sound like an inside the Beltway policy tool, Fast Track is an extraordinary device that strips Congress of any meaningful role and has delivered bad trade deals. We're hopeful Sen. Baucus will listen to the legislature and reevaluate his position to restore Congress' authority," said Joel Barkin, Executive Director of the Progressive States Network.

The Progressive States Network was founded in 2005 to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable and progressive state level actions. It accomplishes this mission by uniting policy makers with experts and grassroots organizations to provide the combination of efforts needed to advance good policy.