It has been a little over a week since the Republicans basically ran the table on the Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections, and in the low pile of hours since then and now, the Democrats have appeared bound and determined to deliver the GOP a gift basket filled with everything on their wish list.
The election was a week ago Tuesday. 72 hours after the last ballots were cast, President Obama was on a plane to Asia, bound and determined to reinvigorate the stalled negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership “trade” deal. The TPP has been negotiated by nations and corporations largely in secret, though several chapters of the proposed deal have been leaked to the public. Those leaked documents have led critics of the deal to dub it “NAFTA on steroids,” and for very good reasons.
The TPP, according to all available information, actually has very little to do with trade deals. Instead, it provides direct incentives for countries and corporations to send jobs offshore to low-wage nations. It puts a number of controls on open internet access that leaves our current “net neutrality” debate in deep shade, despite the president’s recent rhetoric to the contrary. A wide swath of local and federal laws would be required to comply with TPP policies. Perhaps worst of all, the TPP would elevate multinational corporations to the status of sovereign nations, a level of power those corporations have sought for more than a generation.
Closer to home, a pile of Senate Democrats have banded together to push a vote to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, in a desperate and gruesomely cynical attempt to help Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu keep her Louisiana Senate seat; she’s facing a December 9 run-off against Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy, who has offered a competing Keystone bill in the House.
Put plainly, the Keystone XL pipeline is a direct threat to the lives and health of millions of Americans. It will carry tar sands petroleum from Canada, the most pollutive oil product on the planet. The process by which it is extracted has left vast swaths of Canada a veritable wasteland, because the only thing more destructive than the oil is the manner in which it is extracted from the Earth. The pipeline, filled with this poison, will run very near one of the largest and most vital water aquifers in the US, and through our farming breadbasket…and pipelines leak. Always, period, end of file. Pipelines leak, and this poison will not stay in the line.
The new GOP majority in the Senate will not take control until January, but all of a sudden, they have the votes to get this thing done. GOP Senators are gleeful at the chance to force this vote down the Obama administration’s throat next week, and there is no guarantee whatsoever that President Obama will veto it; White House Secretary Josh Earnest signaled a potential veto, but only because they have to wait because the project “is still under review by the State Department to determine whether or not it’s in the national interest.” If State determines Keystone to be “in the national interest,” a veto of this current action will likely count as little more than a short delay, thanks to several Senate Democrats who are suddenly feeling free to vote their right-leaning oil-paid consciences in the aftermath of last week’s elections.
But wait, what about Harry Reid? He will still be majority leader until after the New Year. What about the tactics the GOP has used for more than six years to filibuster everything down to the sink in the men’s room? Have no fear, for it’s all about cooperation and kumbaya from here on out. Sen. Reid has announced that he has “no desire” to obstruct the GOP’s agenda, which means the Keystone XL pipeline legislation is going to pass and hit the president’s desk unmolested by any Democrats. Where it goes from there is anyone’s guess.
And then there’s this: on the same day President Obama winged his way East to ride point on the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a few scant days before members of his party in the Senate ran through walls to push the Keystone XL pipeline, his administration announced that at least 1,500 more US troops would be deployed to Iraq … as “advisers,” of course. The White House has also announced it will be requesting an additional $1.6 billion for an “Iraq Train and Equip Fund.” That money will chase the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve already poured into the sand to “train and equip” Iraq, to utterly no avail … unless you’re a weapons contractor getting a slice of the profits.
According to CBS News, the US has been spending approximately $8.3 million a day to run more than 740 bombing sorties in Iraq since mid-August. ISIL still controls Mosul and much of the north … and, very slowly, more and more US troops are being returned to that battlefield. On Thursday, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committe that “we’re certainly considering” sending combat troops back into Iraq, again. The writing is on the wall.
So, to recap: in the ten days since the Republicans took full control of Congress, Democrats in the Senate, House and White House have flexed hard in favor of a ruinous “trade” deal, a poisonous oil pipeline, and an ongoing disaster of a war.
It does beg the question: Who needs Republicans?