Fast track advances slowly, returns to Senate

A bill that would authorize the White House to "fast track" the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, but which does not include protections for displaced American workers, narrowly passed the House today and will cross-over to the Senate where it will face an uphill battle.

News Report
Will Caron

The U.S. House narrowly passed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) fast track legislation today by a vote of 218 to 208. The bill must now return to the Senate where it faces mounting opposition.

Last Friday, fast track legislation stalled in the House, in large part, because it was paired with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program intended to support workers displaced by the increased emphasis on a globalized economy that would invariably come along with a trade agreement like the TPP. The Sierra Club calls the TAA language “inadequate.”

The House separated TAA language out from the fast track bill and attached fast track to an unrelated bill on the retirement benefits of firefighters and law enforcement officials. Twenty-eight democrats joined 190 republicans to vote for fast tracking the TPP.

However, the fight is not over yet. The Senate version of the fast track bill, which passed, was paired with TAA language. But, now, senators will be voting on a stand-alone fast track bill that does not include TAA language. A number of senators who previously voted for fast track are expected to vote no to a fast track bill that does not include such language.

“I do not support what’s coming over from the House,” said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “I voted for something that had laid-off workers from trade getting assistance and so that’s a very important component.”

The Sierra Club and other organizations opposed to the TPP will be campaigning to convince swing senators to vote no on the House bill. They expect to be successful, particularly because now there is no clear path within the bill to support workers displaced by the effects of the proposed TPP agreement.