Fast-Track Flouts the Constitution

Elizabeth Warren isn’t backing down one inch in her fight with President Obama over the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

On Saturday, just a few days after the President accused her of spreading “misinformation,” about the TPP trade deal I like to call SHAFTA, the Massachusetts senator hit back hard in a letter to the White House.

While the Obama administration has, she pointed out, given 500 or so corporate lobbyists inside access to TPP negotiations, it has left the public completely in the dark.

In fact, as Warren went on to write, "It is currently illegal for the press, experts, advocates, or the general public to review the text of this agreement. And while… Members of Congress may 'walk over ... and read the text of the agreement' -- as we have done – [we] are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of that text in public."

That’s right - members of Congress, the elected representatives of “We the People” can’t talk to the public about the biggest trade treaty in American history. And Warren isn’t making this up, as the Obama administration would have you believe, just to score political points.

A few years ago, before the TPP even became the hot-button issue it is now, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio came on this show and talked about the kind of crazy hoops he had to jump through just to look at one of the more than 20 chapters in a draft version of the deal.

If you thought that was bad, though, here’s the real kicker: if the Obama administration gets it way, Congress won’t even get a chance to really debate the TPP before it becomes the law of the land.

That’s because right now, with the full backing of the White House, the House and Senate are considering bills that would give President Obama “fast track” powers in regards to the TPP and all other trade deals from now until the end of his time in office – and for the first four years of the next president.

If Congress does give President Obama fast track power, our elected representatives wouldn't be allowed to make any amendments whatsoever to trade deals like the TPP. Instead, the treaty would be sent right to the floor where it would only have to pass a simple up-or-down vote after debate limited to 8 minutes per member.

This, to paraphrase Joe Biden, is a big f**ing deal

We need Congress to have as much say as possible about what goes into the final version of the TPP because, as it is right now, the TPP is a stalking horse for the corporate elite.

What little we know about it comes from leaks, and those leaks show that it’s basically a grab bag of all the terrible things Big Business has always wanted but is too scared to ask for in public.

The TPP would give big pharmaceutical companies virtual monopoly patent power, gut environmental and financial rules, and, according to Wikileaks, let corporations sue countries in international courts over regulations that those corporations don’t like.

Sounds scary, right? You bet, which is exactly why Elizabeth Warren wants Congress to reject fast track altogether and have a real debate about the TPP.

But the issues with fast track go deeper than just what is or what isn’t in the TPP.

Ultimately, what’s really the problem with fast track is that it would prevent the Senate from performing one of its most important constitutional obligations: giving its advice and consent to international treaties.

You see, although its supporters call it a “deal” or an “agreement,” the TPP is really a treaty because it’s an agreement between our government and a group of foreign governments over how they want to interact with each other. And under the Constitution, treaties have to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate to go into effect.

But that wouldn’t need to happen if Congress gives President Obama fast track powers.

If Congress grants President Obama fast track powers, the TPP would instead just have to pass a simple majority vote to become law.In other words, it would no longer have to pass the two-thirds approval muster required by the Constitution.

This is something everyone, whether they’re a Republican or Democrat, can agree is wrong.

The Founders gave the Senate advice and consent powers for a reason, and there’s no reason to throw those powers out the window just to make a few corporate lobbyists happy. So call your elected representative today to tell them that you support the Constitution, and therefore oppose fast track powers for the TPP.


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 4 weeks ago

I have not one crumb of respect left for President Obama. Anything positive that he's managed to accomplish over the past six or seven years would be plowed asunder by this so-called "trade deal", the equivalent of a flesh-eating viris to what remains of the American middle class. Yet Obama defends this as "progressive" policy. Yeah it's "progressive" all right.... for the RICH, the LORDS & MASTERS OF HIS FUCKING UNIVERSE. Vote for the "lesser evil" and all you get is evil. If the Obama presidency doesn't make that crystal clear, nothing will.

I can hear Mr. Fabian pointing out yet again that the middle class made its bed, voting for these scumbag politicians over the past several decades while giving their mindless blessings to the erosion of our safety net. I believe there's a lot of truth to that. But where do we go from there?! I heartily applaud Bernie Sanders' announcement of his candidacy for president. Anyone who doesn't vote for him is a damn fool, in my not-so-humble opinion. Bernie is the ONLY candidate addressing the real issues in this country. If he doesn't win the Democratic ticket, I just might end up writing in Donald Duck for president, or Bozo the Clown.

I don't approve of Senator Sanders' endorsement of Israel either, but let's not allow the "perfect" to sabotage the "good". The stakes are just too damn high.

My two cents, as always.

ChicagoMatt 8 years 4 weeks ago

One of the guests on Bill Press' morning show - I think a US Rep, but I didn't catch the name - said that Obama warned that if we didn't do TPP, then China would become the dominant economy in the world.

My response is: Good! Let them take care of the world for awhile.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 4 weeks ago

China already makes everything. Won't even notice.

TarryFaster 8 years 4 weeks ago
RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 4 weeks ago

Two weeks ago today on Democracy Now, Rep Alan Grayson of Florida correctly characterized what action the American public could take if the TPP is Approved, "Pucker up and kiss your country goodbye !".

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 4 weeks ago

Although the TPP (SHAFTA) is areally bad treaty, I take comfort in the knowledge that the United States has a long history of breaking treaties - just ask any Native American.

(Or for that matter, any American who's recently been screwed by the government.)

liz banker 8 years 4 weeks ago

Repeating an earlier rant, though, modified:

If the TPP is so beneficial for America, why did it take Wiki Leaks to reveal segments of the proposal; why was Congress not allowed to discuss on the floor of the Senate and House; or even had access to the Agreement before voting on it until just recently (and it’s only because of the likes of Senator Warren, presidential candidate Bernie Saunders, Senator Sherrod Brown, etc. started to speak up and out about the Agreement); why was the so-called Agreement created in a cloak of secrecy and why no amendments allowed; why only an Up or Down vote by Congress if the Agreement is truly beneficial to the US as the president continues to claim; why, if most Republicans are in favor with the President, Democrats not so much – that tells you right there; why, is the document considered a “Trade Agreement” when it’s been continuously reported to be a Treaty, with only about 30% being about trade; are they framing it as an “Agreement” so the White House can get fast-track approval by usurping Constitutional voting powers of Congress ? ? ? The real truth – Senator Warren is correct, the POTUS + Republicans are wrong.

BTW, Thom, try asking presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton (and her stooge MSNBC Hardball Chris Matthews) what ‘white privilege’ really means for them personally and professionally.

DrRichard 8 years 4 weeks ago

The TTP, and its Atlantic twin, the TTIP, are definitely bad news. But what's even worse is that there has been very little discussion of them in the mainstream press. Keeping the citizenry ignorant is an old trick of those who control a nation.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 4 weeks ago

stecoop1 -- I hate to depress you more, but I can't help myself. We only break treaties if they are hurting "billionaires" or the 1%. It is beyond my imagination that we could break a treaty that was helping billionaires as much as the TPP does.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 4 weeks ago

Every trade union is against the TPP. That is not surprising except for the longshoremen's union being against it. The longshoremen should benefit from the TPP.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 4 weeks ago

Our Executive Branch of government has given 500 corporate lobbyists inside access to TTP negotiations, while "we the people," have been left completely in the dark.

It bears repeating: " The first truth is that liberty of a Democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power where it becomes stronger than the Democratic State itself. That in its essence, is Fascism..ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power." FDR, 1930

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 4 weeks ago

Fool us once (NAFTA), shame on you ! Fool us twice (TPP), shame on us !

dianhow 8 years 4 weeks ago

Obama Stop taking bad advice from the Robber Barrons Keep up the Good fight Warren Middle class is dying Wages are lower hard won pensions slashed. GOP GOV's are taking away the safety net for disabled, mentally ill, old sick folks, foster kids, Reagan began' borrowing' from SS trust fund in 1980's to cover his massive debt ,after lowering top tax rate from 74 % to.....30 % ! Wall St & Corps are making more billions than ever before since deregulation, total amnesty in 86, anti middle class policies, pro corp laws like disaster .Citizens United . WE must Bring back Glass Steagal - Repeal NAFTA GATT Then watch US economy grow & wages come back. Obama Get rid of your insider corp- Wall St Greedy advisors Communist China owns US already We owe them trillions !!

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 3 weeks ago

We owe more to the SS trust fund then we do to China. I deem those numbers minimal compared to repealing NAFTA, SHAFTA, etc and raising tariffs to eliminate the trade deficit.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 3 weeks ago

China will become the dominant economy? They mean their billionaires and bosses will become bigger than our billionaires. They already have the bigger economy - and all our jobs. This rivalry between billionaires doesn't mean a thing to us.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 3 weeks ago

Reply to #15: Hey Mark, maybe the American billionaires and the Chinese billionaires can duke it out 'til they all kill each other off, so the rest of us can live happily ever after.

I can dream, can't I?!

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