By a 218-208 vote, the U.S. House passed a standalone fast-track trade measure key to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Thursday.
The House did not take up the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation, involving assistance to U.S. workers displaced by the trade agreement.
Although the Senate has already passed both the fast-track and TAA trade measures as part of a package, it will have to reconsider the fast-track legislation now that the House has approved it without the TAA component.
The House tried last Friday to advance the full trade package, but it stalled as a result of Democratic opposition to the TAA.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH,8) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are looking to bring up a standalone TAA measure in their respective chambers after the fast-track bill, or the Trade Promotion Authority, gets through Congress.
Fast tracking would limit debate on the final Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and prevent Congress from making changes to it. The president insists he needs such authority to close the Pacific trade deal.
In response to the fast-track legislation's passage in the House, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued this statement:
Today, the Republican leadership rammed undemocratic stand-alone Fast Track legislation, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, through the House of Representatives. This bill puts transnational corporate interests ahead of the American people. Just last week, Congress stood up for its constituents when it voted down a key portion of the Fast Track trade package and stalled the bill's progress. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama should have accepted the will of the American people rather than resorting to parliamentary chicanery to push their corporate trade agenda.
Less than a week ago, the House roundly rejected the worker assistance program that had been part of the Senate legislation; today, the House narrowly passed the Fast Track provision and there is no guarantee the stranded worker assistance program will ever be rejoined to the trade package. The Republican leaders who have fostered a bitterly divisive Congress are now demanding that Democrats and the American people take this commitment on good faith in order to finalize a trade agenda that imperils consumers, workers and the environment.
Fast Track will also pave the way for Congress to rubber stamp the as-yet-unseen Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that will undermine key consumer, public health and environmental protections, and other trade deals that follow. The trade deals facilitated by Fast Track could undermine America's food safety standards and commonsense food labeling measures, bringing a rising tide of unsafe imported food to our grocery stores and restaurants. Just last week, U.S. legislators gutted country of origin meat labeling laws, a sad example of our politicians kowtowing to unelected trade bureaucrats. With Fast Track, we can expect to see more of the same.
The legislation that barely squeaked through the House today faces a much more uncertain future in the Senate. Today's narrow vote to approve Fast Track in the House is an ominous harbinger of the fate of Fast Track in the Senate, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the electoral prospects for Fast Track supporters.
Voters will remember all this and hold members of Congress accountable for siding with transnational corporations rather than their constituents.