“Fast Track” Flouts the Constitution

If the Obama administration gets its way, Congress won't even get a chance to really debate the TPP before it becomes the law of the land. (Photo: Backbone Campaign)If the Obama administration gets its way, Congress won’t even get a chance to really debate the Trans-Pacific Partnership before it becomes the law of the land. (Photo: Backbone Campaign)

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

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.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

In fact, as Senator 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 US history.

And Senator 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 its 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 eight 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 Senator 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.