The Teamsters for years have been an outspoken critic of fast-track trade authorization which allows bad proposed trade agreements to move through Congress on just a quick up-or-down vote. And in the last week, we were joined by 185 House lawmakers who feel the same way.
A bipartisan collection of congressmen rolled out four separate letters in recent days that demonstrate a groundswell of opposition to the fast-track agenda being pushed in Washington. The process would limit debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other possible trade agreements and keep the public in the dark about how such deals will affect American jobs, labor rights, food safety and other important issues.
In all, there are now 194 House members on record as opposing fast track and more likely to come. Their reasons for being against it are not all the same, but are valid nonetheless. For the 151 Democrats who signed a letter co-authored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), the inability to alter language that would result in the loss of thousands of Americans jobs and the importation of unsafe food and other products fuel their opposition.
They told President Obama fast track is "simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced. The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better."
Those signing the letter include some of the most powerful lawmakers in the chamber. They include Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House assistant Democratic leader, as well as top Democrats on 18 of the chamber's 21 full committees. Both liberals and moderates are included.
Meanwhile, 23 House Republicans told the president Congress would be vacating its constitutional responsibilities if it abandoned its oversight of trade deals and approved fast track. "The Founders established this clear check and balance to prevent the president for unilaterally negotiating with foreign nations and imposing trade policies that Congress would deem to be against the national interest," they wrote.
Fast track is an attack on democracy. Americans have been kept out of the loop on how the TPP will affect their everyday lives. The last thing we need is for politicians to fast-track a Pacific trade deal through Congress that allows them to build in secret provisions that help their campaign contributors, but hurt working- and middle-class families.
If lawmakers on Capitol Hill were to approve fast track, there would be no chance to debate changes to TPP that could ensure Buy America provisions remain or that 30,000 Teamsters working in the U.S. dairy industry won't be put out of a job due to state-owned companies coming into the U.S. market. That, however, is of little consequence to large corporations already counting their cash from such a deal.
These letters are proof that there are some in Congress who want to do the right thing. They realize their constituents will suffer if unfair trade deals like the TPP are pushed through without a fair vetting. These House members also know that the Constitution has granted the legislative branch an important responsibility when it comes to trade and they don't want to abdicate their role.
Now is the time for the rest of those on Capitol Hill to realize what they will be doing to this country if they proceed with this flawed vehicle for considering trade deals. It is time to choose people over the powerful. If proposed agreements like the TPP are so great for America, what does the government have to hide?