Fast Track is halfway to the finish line. The U.S. Senate passed it 62 to 37 on May 22, and now it goes to the U.S. House for consideration. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has said he wants to pass fast-track by June 30. The national AFL-CIO is campaigning hard to defeat it.
“This piece of legislation will affect the lives of working people more than any other piece of legislation out there right now,” said AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka at a May 18 press conference in Portland.
What is fast track? Don’t be duped by its re-branding as “trade promotion authority” — the president has all the authority he needs to promote trade. Fast track is legislation that would speed up the Congressional process for considering future trade agreements, and lower its threshold for passing them. In other words, it puts future trade deals on a “fast track” to passage.
If fast track passes the House, then any future trade deals signed by any president—for the next six years—would be locked and loaded, ready for Congress to pull the trigger.
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. It also requires that international treaties be approved by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate. Fast track is an end run around those things: It delegates trade treaty negotiations to the president, and lets the president submit implementing legislation which must then be voted on within 90 days, with limited debate and no amendments allowed. And the trade deal passes with a simple majority, not the supermajority required for a treaty or even for regular legislation under the Senate’s filibuster rule.
Under the direction of President Barack Obama, the U.S. has been secretly negotiating a new NAFTA-style trade treaty with Pacific Rim nations—for six years. According to the fast track bill, Congress now dictates after the fact, in vague terms, what the president was supposed to be bargaining for.
Call or write Congress
Dial the AFL-CIO Trade Hotline to be patched through to your Congressperson: 1-855-712-8441. Ask your representative to please stand with their constituents and oppose Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Or, click here to write a letter.