WASHINGTON (PAI) - One hundred and fifty-one House Democrats - three of every four - mobilized by influential Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., told Democratic President Barack Obama on Nov. 13 that they will not vote for fast track trade negotiating authority for him.
The letter is important because Obama seeks fast track, now called Trade Promotion Authority, so he can push two big future trade pacts through Congress on single up-or-down votes, without amendments or changes to protect workers. One pact would be with Europe and the other, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would be with 12 Pacific Rim nations.
Workers, unions and their allies contend Obama officials are negotiating the two pacts in secret, that the pacts are fully pro-business and would cost U.S. jobs and harm environmental and consumer protection.
The lawmakers said the two pacts, especially the TPP, cover far more than trade.
"The TPP FTA will include binding obligations that touch upon a wide swath of policy matters," they wrote. "Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.
"In light of the broad scope of today's trade agreements, it is even more vital that Congress have a role in shaping these pacts' terms. Given our concerns, we will oppose "Fast Track" Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress' constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes."
Communications Workers President Larry Cohen, an outspoken anti-worker trade pacts - and whose union unveiled the letter's existence - reiterated the opposition to fast track. He also noted 600 corporate "advisers" get to sit in on the TPP talks. Lawmakers, labor and environmental groups are barred.
"Our 20 years of experience in trade deals, going back to North American Free Trade Agreement, has proven that we lose far more jobs than we gain, and that our pay and benefits are pushed down with global competition as the excuse," Cohen said. "That's not the future we want for ourselves or our children. We must pursue economic and trade policies that are best for American workers - not multinational corporations."