Reid: The president’s free-trade fast-tracking request? Yeah, that’s not happening.
POSTED AT 6:01 PM ON JANUARY 29, 2014 BY ERIKA JOHNSEN
But remember, ya’ll — it’s only ever the Republicans who are responsible for blocking every single one of President Obama’s economic initiatives for purely political reasons. Democrats wouldn’t know anything about those kinds of shenanigans, obviously.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday he is not inclined to put trade promotion authority on the floor, less than 24 hours after President Obama called for action on the legislation. …“I’m against fast track,” Reid said of the enhanced trade authority bill drafted by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would speed up congressional consideration of trade deals.Reid said he might not even let the bill come to the floor.“We’ll see,” he said. “Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now.”“Everyone knows how I feel about this. Sen. Baucus knows. Sen. [Ron] Wyden [D-Ore.] knows,” he said in reference to the incoming chairman of the powerful Finance panel.
“Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now”? …Let me translate that: ‘I would rather appease special interest groups like Big Labor, and incidentally court their campaign contributions, by putting their well-monied preferences over the health of the overall American economy and everyone involved in it.’ Yup, sounds about right. The WSJexplains further:
The fast-track process, used to muscle prior trade deals through Congress, would allow the Obama administration to clinch overseas trade deals that lawmakers in turn consider with a yes-or-no vote, without making changes and with limited procedural hurdles. The process, which expired in 2007 and needs to be renewed, also allows Congress to set up nonbinding negotiating goals for the U.S. and stay informed of the negotiations.Fast-track authority is seen as crucial to cementing the trade deals because of the reassurance it would provide negotiating partners in the final, politically-sensitive rounds of talks. Other nations are typically reluctant to make trading concessions unless the U.S. can offer assurances trading pacts won’t be amended or rejected by Congress at the last minute.“You can kiss any new trade deals goodbye,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas.) “I think the majority leader’s focus is on the November elections and he doesn’t want to expose his vulnerable members to controversial votes.”
Minus foreign-policy considerations, like enforcing economic sanctions against Iran, restrictions on free trade are rarely good for anything except blatant protectionism that benefits a particular niche interest at the expense of everyone else. Opening up our own economy to the wider competition of a global market is indeed a reliably solid method for inducing economic growth, and although he only selectively admits to that fact, this seems like one of President Obama’s few economic ideas that isn’t practically designed to end up doing more harm than good. After all, if you want to be allowed to export, you usually have to allow for imports, too — but Reid’s resistance is going to put two major trade deals on which the United States is currently working with Asia in Europe in some serious jeopardy:
The Obama administration is seeking authority to smooth congressional passage of trade deals, including separate accords being negotiated with a group of 11 other Pacific-region governments and the 28-nation European Union. Those pacts would create the world’s largest free-trade zones, linking regions with about $44 trillion in annual economic output.
Which makes it a damn shame that the White House doesn’t really seem willing to push Democrats on getting on board. Because, Republicans! Wait…?