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TPP: 13 Democratic Senators Invite Republicans to Make Them Laughing Stocks and More Serious Matters

letsgetitdone's picture

The cloture vote in the Senate is now done, making the TPA vote itself a mere formality. The vote was 60 – 37 in favor of cloture with 13 of the 14 original Democratic defectors (Ben Cardin was the exception) sticking with the multinational corporations, the President, and all but five of the Republicans in supporting cloture. Supporters of cloture celebrated the bipartisan nature of the vote, as if Americans who lose their jobs and their sovereignty as a consequence of it, and the things it enables, will look more favorably on what they did because both major parties did it.

Meanwhile, three of the five steps in the process for passing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill devised by the Republicans are virtually complete. The remaining steps now defined by McConnell are:

After the Senate votes Wednesday on final passage for fast-track, it will take a procedural vote on a package that includes TAA and trade preferences for African countries known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

McConnell has promised both bills, as well as a customs and enforcement bill favored by Democrats, will reach Obama’s desk by the end of the week.

“If we all keep working together and trusting each other, then by the end of the week the President will have TPA, TAA and AGOA and Preferences on his desk — with Customs in the process of heading his way too,”

he said on the floor.

This remaining process includes the final step of the House passing TAA with the overwhelming support of Democrats, added to about 30 – 40 Republicans, because, it is assumed, probably correctly, that once TPA is passed, then Democrats will have every incentive to vote for TAA, while Boehner will be able to supply the remainder of the votes needed to pass it and keep the McConnell/Boehner commitments to the House and Senate Democratic defectors.

This last step, however, isn't guaranteed to happen in the House. A TAA package received 86 Republican votes in the House in the failed roll call vote that was tied to the first TPA package. But that total for TAA was delivered under pressure from the leadership to pass the TPA package.

Sadly for the 13 defecting Democrats, even if McConnell delivers on his promise of Senate performance this week, then John Boehner may not be able to deliver the 30-40 Republican House votes for the new trade preferences package from the Senate including TAA, using only the incentives of protecting the honor of McConnell, Boehner, and the President, and ensuring that the 13 Senate Democrats don't turn on the trade deals, and vote “no” on the up or down votes on “free trade” left to them later on, after the TPA bill becomes law.

Even more to the point, the incentives of Republican leaders, once they have the TPA in hand for their neoliberal President, who they pretend to disagree so vehemently with, lie in maximizing the chances for a Republican Senate victory in 2016. A big help in achieving that outcome would be the defeat of Patty Murray (D-WA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). So, I still think the 13 Democrats, and especially the three immediately vulnerable ones in 2016, who voted for the TPA bill, have invited the Republicans to make them laughing stocks, seen as naive and incompetent by their constituents for their decision to “trust” the Republicans.

All that said, the impact of their poorly evaluated decision is broad.

First, these Democrats, and the Republicans who voted with them, have now made it much more difficult for the TPP, the TTIP, the TiSA, and other “trade deals” that may be hatched by Obama's plutocrats over the next 6 years to be defeated in the Senate, because there can be no resort to the filibuster, and amendments to change or block harmful deals that the President negotiates.

Second, the immediate implications for the TPP itself are that it will be extremely difficult to block its passage with “no” votes in the Senate. Among the 54 Republicans, Senators Sessions, Shelby, Collins, Paul, Lee, and Cruz, seem to be no votes on the TPP, while 48 Republicans seem committed to it. Among the Democrats 33 seem to be no votes, while 13 are for it. If the Republican opposition doesn't increase in number, then 12 of the 13 Democratic “yes” votes would have to change to “no” votes to defeat it. So, without help from a number of additional Republicans, it will be very difficult to get enough Democrats to shift to defeat the TPP in the Senate.

Defeating it in the House may be easier, however. Since the House is much more subject to short-term political currents including pressure from a movement than is the Senate.

Third, it would take the development of a ferocious movement in opposition to trade deals to motivate enough additional Democrats and Republicans to shift that many votes in the Senate, while in the House such a movement would make it much easier than it is now to shift the 15 votes or so that would probably bring a victory there. And if there is any hope of doing that, it will lie in the impact of public disclosure of the TPP agreement, which will occur when the TPP is introduced in Congress, and also in the extent to which the opposition movement can educate people about the TPP and its likely consequences in enough numbers to fuel enough of a negative reaction to get people in both Houses to change their votes.

To develop such a movement, the anti -TPP movement has to be undeterred by its first round defeat and by the new difficulties it faces in the Senate. There is no time to waste. The effort must be unflagging. It must be smarter than it has been so far, and it must develop a campaign and messaging that forces mainstream politicians running for the presidency into the fray on the side of the anti-TPP movement.

I'm not so much worried about the motivation of the anti-TPP effort as I am about its opposition campaign and messaging. I believe that the first rounds of the fight against these trade deals involved a significant error by the anti-TPP forces. From the beginning, much of the outrage against the TPP has been focused on its anti-labor, anti-worker, anti-manufacturing aspects.

I agree that these are important and should continue to be messaged. But, this cluster of issues isn't important enough to enough people to organize and coordinate a movement of movements that can unify all streams of opposition to these trade deals. What's needed for a successful opposition campaign is an organizing theme that can encompass all the objections normally lodged against the substance of the TPP including the impacts Labor has been focused on.

I think this theme should be the TPP's infringement on Federal, State, and Local government sovereignty constraining policy space at every level of government to those policies that would not interfere with the expectations of profits of multinational corporations. Jobs, environmental, climate change, net neutrality, universal health care, minimum wage, constitutional issues, labor issues, regulatory issues, and many other foreseeable impacts of the TPP are all encompassed by this overall organizing theme.

In addition, the overwhelming majority of Americans care deeply about sovereignty issues. That concern is shared by all strands of TPP opposition, both radical and mainstream. TPP opposition can be wrapped in the flag.

The claim that the anti-TPP forces want to turn the world over to China and India by allowing them to dictate the terms of trade, can be opposed by the more truthful counter-claim that the TPP, in constraining American policy space, while leaving China and India free and with the continuing ability to use their unconstrained policy space to adjust to dynamic trends in trade, is actually turning the future to China, India, and other major powers that will not submit to the constraints in policy space inherent in American trade deals.

The theme of constrained policy space due to the ability of private corporate-courts to fine our government for Federal, State, and local policies they believe disturb the expectations of profits of particular multinationals, can easily be illustrated with all sorts of examples. For example, if the people of the United States elected a President who wanted to enact enhanced Medicare for All, then could the international tribunals deprived of business by such a decision collect from the US government for lost profits?

What if a local government raised the miniumum wage from $7.25 to $15.00, per hour would such “courts” be able to award subsidies to the multinationals who would now have to increase their wages to that level? What if the local governments mandated that corporations operating within a local jurisdiction has to provide a full package of fringe benefits to all their workers? Would that make the US financially liable for those costs?

And on and on. Use your imaginations, can you think of any government legislation of consequence that wouldn't impact some multinational's expectation of profits, and consequently make the US subject to fines?

Playing this game of hypotheticals has been attacked by TPP proponents as engaging in fantasy. But what is the rule in the TPP agreement that would exclude any impact we can think of from the purview of these private courts?

Until we have such a rule that can make clear the limits of the constraints on US sovereignty inherent in the TPP and a procedure for adjudicating these limits that is independent of the discretion of the private courts themselves, we would not even know what the limits of the policy constraints being imposed on the US by the TPP are. And until we do know what these limits are, we cannot say for sure that there are any substance objections of the TPP, from adjustments to negative job impacts to adjustments to climate change impacts and everything in between, that won't fit into the general objection of constraints on sovereignty and government policy space. And that's why I think the sovereignty issue should be the overarching theme that unites us all in opposition to the TPP.

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

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metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

In point of fact, there's an embarassment of "riches", sufficient to resonate, from at least one issue or another, with 90% of the population. And the burden of proof for contradicting any reasonable claim - e.g., that TPP will allow for essentially no caps on INsourcing - is on those who are just fine with the secrecy surrounding this whole sordid affair. (Based on Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's blabbing, I was quite correct in my assumption, as it turns out. Again, though, I didn't need to know I was correct, only that I was being reasonable given what was known.)

I got an email from Flush the TPP tonight, and there was no post mortem, and still no recognition of the fact that most Americans NEVER HEARD OF THE TPP. That should have been ascertained well over a year ago, and it should have set off 'flashing alarm lights'.

Contrasting with the lack of painful self-criticism was a list of 4 positives:

1. We built a broad and diverse movement of opposition that crosses the political spectrum and a diversity of issues.
2. We sharpened our organizing skills and learned new ones.
3. We raised awareness about the TPP and other treaties despite a virtual media blackout and propaganda campaign.
4. More people witnessed the Plutocracy in action -a bipartisan government that represents the wealthy without regard for the rest of us.

The only one that impresses me is #1 - and that just underscores how miserable the public education was!

I refer readers, once again, to "The Lean Startup" (especially the discussion of "vanity statistics") and "Nine Things Successful People Do Differently". If "activist" organizations were run half as efficiently as businesses, TPP/TPA would have been dead on arrival.

I'll also note that we need a negative vote block organizational tool, so people could get "entrained" into purposeful, systematic actions that will relieve them of their traitorous "representatives", during primaries. provided a template for positive ("for candidate X") online organizing. Clearly, we need a negative ("vote the bastard out, no matter what") analog of that.

We also need an online tool that will facilitate meme-penetration in face-to-face scenarios (not just over cyberspace, though there's also room for improvement, there.)

If you outsourced it, you could probably create both tools for under $10,000 each, probably under $5,000 each. A mere pittance compared to the economic loss the public is going to suffer under TPP.

I first became painfully aware of the collective stupidity of "concerned citizens" (including myself) when spending inordinate amounts of time looking at the physics of building collapses of WTC 1, WTC 2, and Building 7 on 9/11. It became obvious to me that amateurs could have worked the same amount of hours at minimum wage jobs, pooled their earnings, and crowd-funded Ph.D. level scientists and engineers. Especially after it became obvious that the US government would in no way do an open and independent investigation into any aspect of 9/11.

The TPP/TPA debacle show the same sort of collective stupidity. Even worse, in some ways. I mean, am I really the only person in the entire US who was able to anticipate unlimited INsourcing in TPP?

"Homo sapiens" implies wisdom ("sapiens"), but I see precious little evidence of that amongst so-called "activists".

metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

Votizen had the potential to affect voting behavior. Hence, it amplified citizens voting power, compared to the status quo. It would have been much more powerful with negative voting block capability, but instead of developing further, they were acquired by

I took a look at, and it seems to be nothing more than an 'aggregating front' end to various petition drives. I didn't notice any "petition" promising to relieve a Congress critter of his/her job.

Hence, I agree that votizen is dead.

Given a choice between resurrecting it (i.e., "embracing and extending" it's historic functionality, to use Bill Gates' famous phrase), and making it a much more powerful tool complete with negative vote blocs, and just calling Congress critters ever more hysterically to vote against TPX (what most of the "activism" seems to consist of, in recent weeks), I'll take the former.

The former would have addressed a long-running, systemic problem; had it been done, already, it would also have provided a tool to make electoral threats credible against TPA (assuming the "activists" woke up enough to couple recruitment into negative vote blocs along with actually educating the public). Thus, we might have killed TPA, and TPP, while 'in the crib'.

Today I sent the Trump campaign a request to develop both a worthy successor to, as well as a 2nd tool to facilitate meme-penetration (thus bypassing mainstream media blackouts; also alternative media information-heavy but action-anemic de facto "blocs"). I also suggested that Trump seed the use of both tools with paid organizers.

I pointed out that the second tool would be a "force multiplier" for any candidate who had a plank consistent with a meme-propagation-campaign. (On further reflection, the negative vote bloc campaigns of the first tool would help the candidacies, as a group, that were on the right side of the vote-bloc's campaign red line. This would occur indirectly, "naturally". However, the negative campaign members could also be solicited for membership into positive campaigns.)

I think I'll post my email to the Trump campaign as a diary.

metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

I realize that Trump has a questionable hair-do, but Ike Eisenhower was bald, and yet he did a decent job.

Also, as President, he will probably have access to a Presidential hair-stylist.

So, let us not dismiss Trump based on superficialities! There are more important matters at hand!!!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Hey, I never questioned Trump's hair-do. That's his business, not mine. My business is what specifically he will commit to doing if elected, and an assessment of whether he's telling the truth or lying about it! All I hear from him are generalities, and even when I hear attacks on Obamacare, I have no idea whether Trump would replace it with something else and what else that would be if he would do so. I believe that Trump is highly unpredictable when it comes to what he would do.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...indicator of the disconnect between the elected and those who put them in office.
Nothing new here IME, but it does bring into question, the operational intelligence of the voter.
Was it Twain who said; if voting mattered it would be illegal?
The main failing I see is a dangerous denial as to the genuine state of the union; it isn't.
One cannot possibly fix a problem if that one cannot identify the problem. And frankly, the problem is so serious, so dangerous, people would shit themselves if they would but see it...

metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

Well, you're generally correct, though one should never just dismiss the "ignorance is bliss / why can't we just party and watch TV and get along?" portion of the public. I suspect, though, that that portion of the public punch far above their weight in the non-voting department, so I really can't get too depressed over them.

The "activists", though, who may have admirable idealism and fortitude, but who lack shrewdness and "killer instinct", are far more upsetting to me. Indeed, I wrote a series of diaries with part-title "The Plutocrats are Laughing At You" to address this (mostly at FDL). They are like the guard dogs who lick the hands of the home burglar instead of barking. Fido may be cute, and you still love him or her, but Fido still massively failed to do the most important of his/her jobs.

We need a new Fido, or else Fido needs to start performing.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

Then you miss the point entirely; there is no Fido and there is no performance left to perform.
The whole body politic is a sick game played for theater; and ignorance can never be bliss, for it is the most dangerous state of existence; an abject failure to see...
The stupid is strong and the fog of Maya overlays everything...
The slo-mo destruction of governance in the U.S. is nearly complete. From a distance of 70 years and 14,000 kilometers, it's impossible not to bear witness...

Barmitt O'Bamney's picture
Submitted by Barmitt O'Bamney on

I don't think they even care to attend to the illusion anymore. I guess that's about the same as saying Maya does all the work for them. Even the doers doing it are unaware of the meaning of their acts - they move as though commanded in a dream. All the way to the fucking bank.

Watching this shitflower unfold, I could almost wish I was 70 years old now. Or better yet, even 80. And I damn sure wish I wish I was 14k Km away from here. Doesn't it help?

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

Yes, purposeful, intentional, neutralizing of democratic processes. It's insidious and very few see it for what it is; it's right there, but unseen by most.
Does it help? In many ways yes; but I'll never be able reconcile what has been allowed to happen. Ignorance is a disease; a contagious disease taught in the public educational system. It's akin to putting small pox on blankets...

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

"Exactly what Lets (and for that matter some of the rest of us) are fighting against."

Yes, I understand that.

"You might say democratic process is something we're attached to...."

Then I submit you're attached to a broken, non-functional system. Further, believing change will come through voting is not facing the facts before you. One cannot claim that the U.S. is constitutional or democratic and be stating anything factual. I'm speaking of the present, today, now.
If it is a fact, change cannot come through voting (and I submit that is true); then the process you are fighting for is useless and another way must be found. Therein lies the way towards a solution. And that is what I mean when I say the real problem must be identified before here can be any possible solution. Attachments such as identity are blinders and inhibit ways "forward".
I do not know the answer, but I'm pretty confident I know the problem.
I do think there must be at least 5% of the population willing to risk everything and I mean everything, for anything to "work".
The problem started with the people and can only end with the people; an independent people. To be clear, I'm not talking about ballot boxes; that cannot work.

Submitted by lambert on

... with nothing."

I'm a "Democracy is the worst system, except for all the others guy." And I don't know why let's IVCS system can't be used to fix the (many) broken aspects of it that we have.

Finally, I like the idea of a 5% (or X%) standard, especially because it's testable against past historical events. But absent some alternative that those 5% are going to rally round, I'd say democracy it is.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

Pessimism? Or just seeing the facts on the ground. The word pessimism is often a deflection used by those in denial...
Only by accurately identifying a problem can one solve said problem.
Until and unless the intentional destruction of the entire core of the constitutional system of the U.S. is seen for what it is; voting and the attendant theater is a useless exercise in futility.

metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

Only by accurately identifying a problem can one solve said problem.

Right, but according to you, "accurately identifying a problem" means that the democratic process is 100% broken, and irretrievably so, in the sense that reform is impossible working within the system.

Did I get that right?

There are many counter-arguments to this, but I don't want to take the time to make them. I'll just say that I'm 100% for educating the public about just how corrupt the system is (I mean, corrupt in so far as I can understand, not corrupt in the absolutist sense that you are claiming), and even going beyond that into educating the public about the "deep state", to use Peter Dale Scott's terminology.

Also, please don't misunderstand the above to mean that we don't need social movements that operate mostly without concern about electoral processes. We need an inside/outside game.

Quite frankly, we don't have much of either. Not when it comes to fighting the plutocracy, anyway.


Somewhat off topic, there was a fascinating interview by Gary Null, yesterday, on While short of smoking gun evidence, there is still (apparently; wasn't listening super closesly) a strong case to be made that drugs, especially LSD, were pushed onto young people in the 60's, essentially by government agents, to blunt their growing political muscle.

This included prominent musicians, such as Mick Jagger, who apparently was vocally anti-war until he got caught up in a big drug bust. Link here., but audio isn't showing, yet. (Might already be on soundcloud, though.)

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

Sorry, I quit listening when potash said Vietnam was part of the Golden Triangle; that is flat wrong and not even close.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

Yes, correct, 100% broken. How can it not be when citizens do not even choose their representatives? Through a very corrupt system, representatives are narrowed, for the most part, down to those chosen by the shadow government. I think the TTP is a classic example of cutting the voice of the citizen out of the process. The invasion of Iraq is another; many millions of people in Europe and the U.S., hit the streets in protest; to no avail.
I do respect what I view as honest, well meaning efforts, by you, Lets, and Lambert; but I think you are mistaken and working within a broken paradigm that is a self defeating machine.
It's past time to find another way. If you cannot mobilize 5% or more citizens into some kind of unity; your efforts are for naught.
I suggest you're not seeing the "real" situation which may be a failure of history and you not understanding that history.
The situation in America is far, far, worse than you seem to realize.
The very foundations that are America are meaningless; trashed by those governing...

Barmitt O'Bamney's picture
Submitted by Barmitt O'Bamney on

And now Nancy Pelosi is back on TAA train - supporting her President in his neverending struggle to throw Americans out of work.
She flopped before she flipped, and America sez Huh? Yay for Nancy! Way to show government is good for something! Way to train those fortysomethings for exciting new careers in jobs that don't and won't exist.

I have this saying that I say, and I'm afraid I'm going to be wearing it out over the next year. "This is just reality -the reality of the Democratic Party and our coin operated system of government- reasserting itself" I'm tired of it already and I apologize in advance.