POLITICS
05/19/2015 07:55 pm ET Updated May 19, 2015

Elizabeth Warren: I Haven't Spoken With Obama About His Secretive Trade Deal

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) hasn't spoken with President Barack Obama about his secretive Pacific Rim trade agreement despite the pair's public feud over the deal, the senator told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

Warren said that Obama has provided her with no evidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with 11 other countries -- accounting for 40 percent of the world's economy -- will be different from previous trade pacts that have failed to meet presidential promises to protect workers.

"For the past 20 years, Republicans and Democrats have failed to enforce the promises they made," Warren said. "So that really means that the American worker has just taken one punch after another. And I think that means we just have to call him out on this."

On Monday, Warren released a report on the failure of multiple U.S. presidents, including Obama, to enforce labor protections in trade agreements.

On Tuesday, Obama said in a statement, "I have made rigorous trade enforcement a central pillar of U.S. trade policy, and we have moved aggressively to protect American workers and to improve labor laws and working conditions with trading partners across the globe."

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on whether to grant the president authority to fast-track the TPP agreement and future trade pacts, a move that would block Congress from amending or filibustering those deals. Obama has called the TPP the most progressive trade deal ever and argued that people like Warren are "making stuff up" about the effort.

The Senate was stalled Tuesday over amending the measure on trade promotion authority. With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) setting a deadline to pass the fast-track legislation before Memorial Day, it appeared likely all or most of the proposed amendments would be dropped, including some from Warren. One of those aimed to prevent trade deals from weakening U.S. financial regulations.

Senate Democrats hit the Obama administration with an embarrassing blow last week when they banded together to hold up the fast-track legislation. Warren has emerged as the Capitol Hill face of that movement, echoing the concerns of many progressives that the TPP will undermine U.S. laws, including Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and harm the middle class.

In the HuffPost interview, Warren downplayed the feud with the White House, giving Obama credit for trying to do what he thinks is right. "I don't have any doubt that the president's intentions are good, but I really want to be clear this is about the substance," she said.

The senator also took issue with the administration's claim that it has taken unprecedented steps to increase transparency in America's trade policy. She pointed out that President George W. Bush posted the scrubbed text of a trade agreement he had negotiated long before he asked for partial fast-track authority.

"What's the most transparent trade agreement in history?" she laughed. "Get that thing posted."

Warren is not the only key Democrat the White House has failed to consult with. The top House Democrat on trade, Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), has said repeatedly that the administration has failed to take Democrats' concerns seriously and as a result, few in the House are supporting his push.

HuffPost

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