Over at Ten Miles Square, Ari Rabin-Havt discusses Max Baucus’s last act as a U.S. Senator before taking over his post as Ambassador to China. Baucus will try to push through the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014. This bill would force Congress to consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty without the ability to make any amendments to it. It’s a necessary prerequisite for ratification, not because it will make members more likely to vote ‘yes,’ but because the details of the treaty are being carefully negotiated, and allowing a legislature to monkey with the language would destroy the whole framework. Therefore, the treaty needs to get a simple up-or-down vote. That much makes sense, but the problem is that Congress hasn’t been able to see the language in the treaty.
Apart from a few corporations, most stakeholders and public interest groups have been unable to read the TPP drafts in full. Even those in government have complained that their staff cannot access the negotiating text. As Wisconsin Republican Mark Pocan said in reponse to the new bill: “Blindly approving or disapproving agreements that have largely been negotiated in secret would represent a derelict of duty for Congress. If there is nothing to hide in these agreements, we should be allowed to debate and amend these deals in the open.”
For this reason, many politicians are wary of agreeing to fast-track the treaty. Ari Rabin-Havt argues that Max Baucus and the administration have nowhere near the votes they would need. So, for all the angst caused by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it may amount to nothing.
Most progressives will see that at as a good thing, since they don’t agree with the White House that the treaty would “support more American jobs at higher wages, including in a stronger manufacturing sector.”