Can Biden Run For President With TPP Around His Neck?

Vice President Joe Biden is considering a run for president. But Biden is currently working behind the scenes to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which most (if not all) core Democratic-aligned groups will likely oppose. Can Biden run for president as a Democrat after pushing TPP on us?

While TPP is being negotiated in secret, some parts of it have leaked. This limited information indicates that TPP is another “NAFTA-style” corporate-dominated agreement, designed to elevate corporations above government, limit the ability of citizens to make laws and regulations that protect them from corporate harms and scams, and to force wages down so a few executives and “investors” can pocket the wage differential.

Autos And Parts, For Example

One (only one) example of the “NAFTA-style” damage that TPP might do is a provision that actually weakens the limited protections NAFTA granted to auto and parts manufacturers.

Under NAFTA, auto companies and parts suppliers in countries in the agreement were given a level of tariff-free status through “content requirements.” But, according to leaks, in TPP the U.S. is actually pushing for lowered content requirements for cars and auto parts. (I explained the details in “TPP Terms Are Even Worse For U.S. Than NAFTA?“) This means China can get that business through Japan, which will force layoffs of workers and closures of factories. This is just one example of how TPP is actually even worse for American (and Canadian and Mexican) workers than NAFTA was.

Celeste Drake of the AFL-CIO explains further, in “Do U.S. Workers Really Have to Rely on Canadian and Mexican Negotiators to Look Out for Our Jobs?“:

Last month, Canadian and Mexican officials did the math and said no deal! They objected to these low standards, with Mexico’s Minister of the Economy explaining, “What you can accuse me of” is advocating for “the interests of my country.”

Why aren’t the United States’ own negotiators doing the same? If the reported deal is accurate, it would wipe out jobs throughout the U.S. supply chain. Even with a far higher regional value content rule, U.S. jobs are still at risk to other TPP countries, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam. But the lower the regional value content required by the TPP, the more auto sector jobs U.S. workers stand to lose.

Another example (one of many) of TPP’s probable damage is Nike vs New Balance. Nike pioneered outsourcing, now making its shoes in ultra-low-wage countries like Vietnam. Meanwhile New Balance is still trying to make some of its shoes in the U.S. TPP will lower the tariff on shoes brought in from Vietnam, rewarding Nike for outsourcing, and killing off New Balance’s ability to make shoes in the U.S., forcing layoffs and factory closures.

Biden Active In Pushing TPP

Biden does not just happen to be in an administration that is pushing TPP; he is working hard to push TPP himself.

For example, Biden met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York Tuesday to encourage him to help wrap up TPP this week. Japan Times has the story, in “Abe, Biden agree to work together to conclude TPP talks possibly this week“:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden agreed Tuesday that the two countries will cooperate to conclude talks on a Pacific free trade initiative this week, both governments said.

Biden and Abe agreed that their negotiating teams for the Trans-Pacific Partnership would work closely together “with the goal of resolving the limited number of outstanding issues at the upcoming ministers meeting in Atlanta,” according to the White House.

… A Japanese official who attended the meeting quoted Biden as saying that the 12 countries engaged in TPP talks should strike a deal on this opportunity.

Biden Lining Up With Republicans, Wall Street And Corporate America Against Democrats, Labor And Progressives

TPP is still secret, and until the agreement is public the opposition is unable to organize — which is the point of the secrecy. But we know from leaks that TPP is likely to draw at least the same opposition as Fast Track did. This is a summary of which groups were on which side of Fast Track:

Some of the groups that lined up in favor of Fast Track and are almost certain to support TPP: (This is the side Joe Biden is standing on.)

● Republicans in the House and Senate.
● Wall Street.
● Giant multinational corporations.
● Billionaires and CEOs.
● The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate lobbying organizations representing giant corporations against the rest of us.
● Right-wing “free market” outfits like Cato Institute (formerly named the Koch Foundation).

There was a large coalition organized against Fast Track and likely to oppose TPP (and Biden):
● Most Democrats in the House and Senate.
● All of organized labor — every labor union in the US opposed Fast Track and are likely to oppose TPP – and Biden.
● Almost every identifiable progressive-aligned organization, including:
● Human rights groups, and anti-slavery/trafficking activists,
● Environmental groups,
● LGBT groups,
● Faith groups,
● Consumer groups,
● Food-safety groups, and many, many others aligned with causes progressives, labor and public-interest groups feel are important.

All of these groups will actively oppose Biden if he runs for President with TPP around his neck.

Can Biden Run As A Democrat After Pushing TPP?

There are some things that a candidate in the Democratic primaries just can’t do. A Democrat can’t be for cutting Social Security or Medicare when “the base” wants candidates who are in favor of expanding it. A Democrat can’t be in favor of cutting taxes for the billionaires and corporations.

A Democrat can’t be in favor of doing things that hurt the environment and increase the threat of climate change, such as building the Keystone Pipeline.

Those are some of the third rails for the kind of Democrats who are active, informed and vote in primaries. But in the next year – assuming TPP is even half as bad for 99 percent of us that leaks have indicated it is – TPP will be the third rail of all third rails. The one thing certain to kill the chances of being nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate is not being out there on the front lines fighting tooth and nail to stop TPP. Because of this, Joe Biden is not a Democrat who can run for president in 2016 and win the nomination.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Still No Democratic Debates. What’s Going On?

The second Republican Presidential candidate debate was last night. The ratings for the first one (24 million viewers) were through the roof and last night’s (20 million) was also a ratings blockbuster. People are interested and tuning in to the campaign and the Republicans are getting all the “eyeballs.”

Meanwhile there hasn’t been even a hint of a Democratic candidate debate. What’s going on? Why are the Democrats letting Republicans have the attention and audience? Do they feel the party has nothing to offer – or worse, something to hide?

“Just spell my name right.” It is basic marketing that any publicity is good publicity.

The Last Time, Debate After Debate

As of this date in 2007 there had already been several Democratic debates.

The first debate was April 26, 2007, at South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina. Present were Senator Joesph Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Senator Barack Obama, Governor William Richardson and the debate was moderated by Brian Williams. Afterward Democrats debated at these events:

● June 3, 2007 at Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, New Hampshire.
● June 28, 2007 at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
● July 12, 2007 at the NAACP convention, Detroit.
● July 23, 2007 at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.
● August 4, 2007 at the YearlyKos convention in Chicago.
● August 7, 2007 in Chicago, sponsored by the AFL-CIO.
● August 9, 2007 in Los Angeles, an LGBT debate sponsored by the LOGO cable channel.
● August 19, 2007 in Des Moines, the Iowa Democratic Party/ABC debate.
● September 9, 2007 at University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, broadcast by Univision and simultaneously translated to Spanish.

So that is 10 debates up to now in the 2008 “cycle,” 11 if you count a September 12 “mashup” debate comprised of individual candidate interviews conducted for Yahoo News and The Huffington Post.

This Time, Silence

This time the Democratic Party has disappeared entirely from the 2016 presidential campaign – at least as far as prime-time, televised, mass-audience, attention-grabbing, awareness-driving, conversation-starting, media-triggering debates are concerned. The party has taken itself out of the game, and more and more people are asking why.

Eight years ago the first debate was in April, 2007. This time the first debate is not scheduled until October 13 – a seven-month difference. (A seven-month media vacuum.) October 13 is the day after a three-day weekend for many people. Is this an intentional attempt to limit the audience?

That first debate will be a CNN/Salem Radio event in Las Vegas. CNN? Who watches CNN anymore? And Salem Radio is a conservative Christian network. WTF? Is this an intentional attempt to limit the audience and force hostile questions?

So far there have been seven months and 10 or 11 debates-worth of lost opportunity and visibility for Democratic ideas and candidates. But wait, there’s more. In the 2008 cycle there were two more Democratic candidate debates between now and the time of the first scheduled debate on October 13: a September 20, 2007 PBS “health care” debate in Davenport, Iowa, and a September 26, 2007 MSNBC debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The second Republican debate is tonight, with a huge audience expected. The second 2016-cycle Democratic candidate debate is not scheduled until November 14, with CBS/Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. Then the third Democratic debate is not scheduled until just before the holidays on December 19, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The fourth debate will take place January 17, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina with NBC News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Like the October 13 debate, this debate is scheduled on a holiday weekend.

After that there are only two more debates, not yet scheduled, one with Univision (Spanish language.)

What’s Going On?

Why are the Democrats hiding their candidates? What’s going on? Even when they are having a rare debate, the schedule appears to be designed to limit the potential audience.

This is basic marketing, people. Exposure is good. Repetition is good. If you want to reach the public, you have to reach the public.

Instead the Democratic Party is hiding their candidates from the public. Why?

One candidate being hurt by the restriction on debates is Hillary Clinton. (You may have heard that name somewhere – but not in a 2016-cycle debate.) Clinton has offered a very strong set of policy proposals. (Click through, really, she has.) But in the absence of any events to distract the media and bring attention to the positions of the Democratic candidates Clinton is hounded by the email pseudo-scandal. (By the way, like the Benghazi pseudo-scandal, can anyone explain what she is supposed to have done that is wrong?) With no debates to move the conversation along to the issues the media has almost no choice but to focus on this weird non-story.

Candidate Martin O’Malley also wants to know why the Democratic Party leadership is limiting the number of debates. O’Malley has a lot to offer. For example, in August he offered a very strong plan to expand retirement security – at a time when so many Americans need exactly that. O’Malley has also offered a very strong (and badly needed) criminal justice reform plan. Take a look at his “vision” page. Bet you didn’t know he was offering such a good set of proposals – and you won’t know because the Democratic Party has limited the debate schedule.

And then there’s Bernie Sanders. Sanders would also benefit from the exposure an expanded debate schedule would offer. His biggest problem is still name recognition. As Democrats hear his ideas they largely support his ideas. (Some people think this is why the party leadership is limiting debates.)

(P.S. take a look at Bernie’s DemocracyDaily.)

(I’m told there are two other people running. If there were lots of debates the public would get a chance to know this, too.)

The Democratic Party Would Benefit From More Debates

Overall the entire Democratic Party would benefit from having many, many more televised debates. This time the Democrats have a strong message that resonates with the majority of the public. (Click here to see for yourself.) This time they have strong candidates. This time they have the moral high ground.

And this time they aren’t letting the public know these things.

Why is the Democratic Party being so undemocratic? Why are they limiting the number of debates? Why are they trying to keep their candidates hidden from the public and letting the Republicans set the narrative?

Meanwhile, while we’re on the subject of strangling the debates, The Onion from 2008: “New Debate Rules Allow For One 15-Second Strangulation“:

“Both candidates will receive two minutes to answer each question, five minutes for discussion, and a one-time-only option to walk over to their opponent’s podium and cut off his oxygen supply for up to 15 seconds,” a statement from the Commission on Presidential Debates read in part, also specifying that debate moderator Jim Lehrer can exercise his own discretion in determining whether or not the strangulations go over time. “After being choked, the candidate, if still standing, may counter with one of his two allotted empty beer bottles to the head.”

That would draw ratings.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

See Why Dem Party Leaders Are Limiting Debates

The Democratic Party is restricting the number of debates. I think I know why. See for yourself:

PS Here is Dr. Cornell West’s introduction of Bernie:

Oh, one more thing:

John Coltrane playing A Love Supreme Live

“John Coltrane’s masterwork, A Love Supreme, was only played once in live concert. This portion is the only surviving film of that 1965 performance.”

Where Are The Democratic Debates? (Updated)

I was wondering when there will be Democratic Party Presidential debates. So I looked up how the debates worked in the 2008 cycle. 2007 corresponds to 2015 in this cycle.

The first debate was April 26, 2007, at South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina. Present were Senator Joesph Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Senator Barack Obama, Governor William Richardson and the debate was moderated by Brian Williams.

Then, up to today’s (Aug. 5) date there was:

June 3, 2007 at Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, New Hampshire
June 28, 2007 at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
July 12, 2007 at NAACP convention, Detroit, Michigan
July 23, 2007 at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina
August 4, 2007 at the YearlyKos convention in Chicago, Illinois

Update September 10:

August 7, 9, 19
September 9, 12, 20, 26

There had already been 6 10 with 3 coming this month debates between the Democratic candidates by this point. In the rest of August alone there were 3 more, August 7, August 9 and August 19.

What about the rest of 2007?

September 9, September 12, September 20, September 26, October 30, November 15, December 4 and December 13.

So by comparison, how are we doing so far in the 2016 cycle? And why is that?

Update – there were 6 party-sanctioned debates in the “2008 cycle” but this time the party has cracked down to try and prevent other debates. Why is that?

I Want To Support Clinton, Too, But…

Like everyone I am in contact with (everyone who knows who he is, anyway) Bernie Sanders has my heart. But I really want to support Hillary Clinton, too!

But this is getting ridiculous. TPP, Keystone…

Here is her statement on an issue I will not name, because it is her basic answer on every issue:

“On the XXXX itself, again, I think, we have to look to see what are the pluses and minuses that are embodied in a decision,” she said. “I’ve obviously looked at the arguments on both sides, and I think we’ll gather more information and that will perhaps give us a better path forward.”

Hillary’s strategy is to sit on her big lead, and not say anything that will hurt her with the big donors.

Did Obama Administration Downplay Malaysia Slavery To Grease Trade Deal?

“Pope Francis says when the economy controls politics both lose … When economics takes over we tolerate anything for the sake of the dollar.”
– Sister Simone Campbell

Cheap labor is the whole point of our corporate-rigged, NAFTA-style trade agreements. Companies get to move jobs, factories, even entire industries out of the U.S. to countries where people are exploited, the environment is not protected and “costs” like human safety are kept low.

But even so … tolerating slavery? Flat-out slavery? Really? Unfortunately, it looks like that’s what is happening with fast-track trade promotion authority, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Obama administration.

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Next Big One: Repatriation Tax Holiday Giveaway To Corporations

Here comes the next big one. Now that the corporations have fast-track trade authority in the bag, they are trying to push a huge, huge tax giveaway through Congress. We have to get the word out so this doesn’t just sneak through. We can’t let them continue to rig the system against us like this.

Up To $770 Billion Is Owed On $2.2 Trillion In Corporate Profits Stashed In Tax Havens

You might have heard about all that money the giant corporations have been stashing in tax havens so they can dodge paying their taxes. You might not have heard how much they owe us. Corporations have somewhere around $2.2 billion of “offshore” profits stashed in tax havens. They owe up to 35 percent in taxes on that money. That’s right; they owe up to $770 billion that We the People could have right now for our roads, schools, health care, scientific research, space exploration, to forgive student debt … we could have free college tuition, expand Social Security, high-speed rail across the country…. Instead, we’re told we can’t have these things because there are “budget deficits.”

And on top of that, at least another $50 billion per year of tax money is kept from us because of this scam.

Congress could just tell these corporations to pay up, and We the People would have up to $770 billion to use to make our lives better, and another $50 billion or more each year.

See if you can guess what Congress is getting ready to do instead?

Tax Holiday

Right now the giant, multinational corporations owe up to $770 billion in taxes on the $2.2 trillion they are holding outside the country in tax-haven mailbox subsidiaries. Right now. They have the cash in the bank (in tax-haven countries) and could write checks tomorrow if Congress told them to. Again, this is taxes they already owe but haven’t paid. Think of the things our country could do with that money.

But instead …

Congress is proposing to give these companies a tax holiday and let them off from paying the taxes they already owe on that money. There is all kinds of complicated language being used to mask what is happening, but it’s really simple: Some members of Congress are proposing letting them off from the taxes they already owe on “offshore” profits, and then letting them off from paying taxes on future profits made “outside the country” from now on.

For example, the Charles Schumer-Rob Portman bill in the Senate will tax this money (on which 35 percent is already owed), “at a rate significantly lower than the statutory corporate rate.” And then it will cut tax rates on future “offshore” profits forever.

Quick question: For years these companies have been moving jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of this tax dodge. If they are rewarded for this with this huge tax cut, how many more companies will move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country from now on? Bonus question: Will there be any jobs, production or profit centers left inside the U.S. if Congress lets companies off the hook from taxes on profits made from moving jobs, production and profits centers out of the country?

Don’t Let this Sneak Past Us

The corporations and billionaires count on these things sneaking through under cover of complicated language, so we never find out what is happening to us. Later they tell us “we’re broke” and there is no way to “pay for” things like roads, schools, and other needs. They tell us we have “deficits” that could “bankrupt” us, so college tuition has to go up, we have to pay to use toll roads, they have to cut funding for schools, we can’t have high-speed rail, they can’t afford to do scientific research or space exploration or fight global warming or fix up national parks, and so on.

But what is really going on is the game is being rigged. Corporations get huge tax breaks and subsidies, a few billionaires and plutocrats get the cash, and We the People, the 99 percent, have to make up the difference.

We need to get the word out about this. This is the next big one they are trying to slip through before we know what is happening to us.

We have to fight this. We have to make noise. Even if we don’t win this, at least we will know what happened this time. Then, later, when they come back and say there’s no money to do things that make our lives better, we will be able to see through the smokescreen. We will know where the money went, and eventually enough people will understand how the game is being rigged – and stop it.

Congress should tell the giant, multinational corporations that it is time to pay the taxes the already owe on “offshore” profits. They should not reward companies for moving jobs, production and profit centers out of our country.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Wall Street And Big Corporations Got What They Wanted – This Time

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what “the rules” for doing business “in the 21st Century” will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Because of fast track, when the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other secretly negotiated “trade” agreements are completed Congress must vote in a hurry with only limited debate, cannot make any amendments no matter what is in the agreement, and they can’t be filibustered. Nothing else coming before our Congress gets that kind of skid-greasing, only corporate-written “trade” agreements – and it doesn’t matter how far the contents go beyond actual “trade.”

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All Hands On Deck: House Fast Track Vote Could Come This Week

ALL HANDS ON DECK. This is not a drill. The vote in the House of Representatives on fast track trade authority, preapproving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the public finds out what is in it, is coming up very soon. It is even possible it could happen later this week. The Senate has already passed fast track; if the House passes this it goes to President Obama and he will sign it. That will make TPP a done deal.

Fast track is a weird procedure, invented by President Richard Nixon, whereby Congress sets aside the normal procedures for considering, debating and voting on a bill – but only for so-called “trade” agreements. Under fast track Congress agrees to rush the agreement through with little debate, agrees not to make any amendments, and not to filibuster it. (How else could they get approval for deals that allow companies to ship jobs and factories out of the country to places where workers and the environment are not protected?)

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Make One More Call To Senators To Stop Fast Track

The fast track trade promotion authority vote in the Senate is itself being fast tracked. The last time fast track was in front of the Senate, members spent three weeks discussing it. This time the Senate gets just a few days.

The final Senate vote is coming up. Make a few calls and see if we can head this off.

The Senate is considering the rigged fast track trade promotion authority process that, if passed, will be used to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and future trade bills under future presidents.

Please make one more call to your senators and let them know you do not want them to vote for the Fast Track bill. If it passes the Senate it will then move to the House soon after the Memorial Day break. The House is where the real fight will take place; it is important that you start contacting your representative in Congress about this.

Big Rush

Fast track is being rushed through the Senate at an unusual pace, and senators are largely being denied the chance to offer amendments. Thursday the Senate voted 62-38 to halt debate soon after it began, with 13 “Democrats” joining Republicans to rush the process of pushing fast track through before the public can catch on that the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is being “greased.” Fast Track essentially preapproves TPP before the public can even see what is in the agreement.

Michael McAuliff, in Senate Advances Fast-Track For Obama Trade Deals at HuffPo, writes that even Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions wants to know what the rush is:

“We’re moving to this massive bill with very little debate even on the fast-track policy. And if that’s adopted and the bill — TPP — appears, there will be no amendments on it,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), referring to the fast-track rules that don’t allow Congress to alter trade agreements.

“I see no reason that we have to rush this,” Sessions said, adding that he has not received enough assurance from the administration that the trade deals will be good for workers.

“I sent a letter to the president of the United States asking how fast-track and the vast Trans-Pacific Partnership would impact the jobs and wages of American workers. A simple question. Would it increase or reduce manufacturing jobs and wages in the United States?” Sessions said before the vote. “Shouldn’t we know that? Is that a question improper to be asked? He’s refused to answer. I think the reason he’s refused to answer is because the answer is not good.”

Currency Amendment

One amendment that actually will get a vote is a currency amendment by Sens. Rob Portman (D-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Passing the currency amendment requires 51 votes. This amendment would add a requirement to the fast track legislation telling trade negotiators to include provisions to hold countries accountable to International Monetary Fund standards. It would add enforceable currency language necessary to ensure that foreign competitors don’t use their exchange rates to subsidize their exports at the expense of products made by American workers.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she wants to see currency rules like this in TPP and this amendment will help make that happen. CNN has the story in “Clinton finds problems with Obama TPP trade proposal“: “The Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential race said she wants to see rules included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would penalize countries for driving down the value of their currencies in order to give their exports a price advantage in the U.S. market.”

Business groups affected by unfair competition from countries that manipulate currency also want this to pass. For example, the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents Ford and GM, wants the Portman-Stabenow amendment to pass. The U.S. Business and Industry Council also issued a statement that begins:

Kevin L. Kearns, USBIC president, issued the following statement: “For far too long, our domestic manufacturers have been subject to attacks by foreign competitors using artificially low prices courtesy of undervalued currencies. As a result, the United States has seen its domestic manufacturing base hollowed out and former manufacturing centers turned into blighted cities. It is time this predatory practice, which violates IMF requirements, is eradicated. To do so, there needs to be a defined process and specific penalties in trade agreements. Portman-Stabenow is an important first step in seeing that modern trade agreements put a halt to currency manipulation.”

Make A Call, Then On To The House

Michael Stumo of the Coalition for a Prosperous America writes at Economy in Crisis, in “What to expect re: upcoming trade votes“:

We do expect the Senate to approve Fast Track this week. Do not be disappointed or discouraged if and when you hear that news.

Indeed we have always expected the Senate to approve it. While we had a brief surprise last week when the Senate defeated a cloture vote, that lasted two days and was for procedural maneuvering reasons rather than a fundamental shift. … After likely Senate approval, the House is expected to take up Fast Track in early June.

… This is a big battle. The pro-trade deficit advocates are well funded. The battle, in many ways, will continue for some time.

The point of this message is: The Senate will likely vote for Fast Track, this is expected, it should not discourage you from future advocacy, and the big battle is in the House.

It is very important to call your state’s two senators TODAY and let them know your feelings about rushing fast track through with little debate and almost no consideration of amendments.

Call the Capitol Hill operator at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senators. Or, find the direct number here.

The 13 Democrats who broke ranks and voted with Republicans should get particular attention, if you are in one of their states. These are Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

After fast track is rushed through the Senate, it will be brought up for a vote in the House soon after it returns from Memorial Day recess June 1. If you are able to attend an event with your member of Congress in person over this break please do so; please let them know you are paying attention and do not want them to preapprove TPP by voting for fast track. Otherwise give your representative’s office a call, write a letter and let everyone you can talk to know that this is coming up and is very important for the future of working people.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

These 13 Democrats Are Helping Rush Fast Track Through The Senate

Democratic Senators voted to limit trade debate

Fast track is being super-fast tracked in the Senate. Wall Street and the big corporations really, really want this one and the Senate is responding, including 13 “Democrats.” When the fix is in and you are rigging the game anyway, why bother with the pretense of meaningful and open public debate?

Sometimes a vote is a clear either/or, where you are either voting with Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations or you are voting with 99 percent of Americans who actually (try to) work for a living. These trade votes are one of those clear choices. Thirteen Democrats joined today with Republicans, Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations to rush fast track through the Senate with little public debate and few votes on amendments.

These are the 13 “Democratic” Senators who voted to rush the TPA bill: Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

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These Senate Democrats Broke The Blockade Of Fast Track

As promised, here is the list of Democratic senators who joined Republicans to break the filibuster of fast track trade promotion authority. Fast track essentially preapproves the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the pubic gets a chance to know what is in it. As I wrote Thursday, this is “for your phone calls and your ‘long memory’ list.”

Michael Bennet, Colorado – (202) 224-5852
Maria Cantwell, Washington – (202) 224-3441
Tom Carper, Deleware – (202) 224-2441
Chris Coons, Delaware – (202) 224-5042
Dianne Feinstein, California – (202) 224-3841
Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota – (202) 224-2043
Tim Kaine, Virginia – (202) 224-4024
Claire McCaskill, Missouri – (202) 224-6154
Patty Murray, Washington – (202) 224-2621
Bill Nelson, Florida – (202) 224-5274
Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire – (202) 224-2841
Mark Warner, Virginia – (202) 224-2023
Ron Wyden, Oregon – (202) 224-5244

“Extremely Lucrative Post-Political Opportunities For Members Of Congress And Staff”

On an obviously (to me) related note, on Thursday Salon published “‘Utter insanity and stupidity’: Ex-Reagan adviser unloads on GOP, lobbyists and the myth of the ‘moderate Republican'” interviewing Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett said that he sees lobbying as “one of the most insidious threats to American government.” He sees this as more of a threat than the campaign finance system. One reason, he says, is that companies now see government as a profit center where they get a return on the amounts they spend to bribe lobby Congress. He goes on (emphasis added):

The second insidious element of this [lobbying] is that it has created extremely lucrative post-political opportunities for members of Congress and staff. It used to be that a member of Congress, once they were defeated or were retired, they’d go home or they would just simply literally retire and do nothing. But now, they have all these opportunities to make huge amounts of income as lobbyists. I think it’s changed the nature of being in Congress.

When I first started working on Capitol Hill, it was sort of generally understood that a member of Congress would stay pretty much forever … and it was very common for staff people to stay on Capitol Hill for their entire careers. I think that’s very rare these days. Now, they come, they get their ticket stamped, and then they move on and become lobbyists and make a lot more money — and do a lot less work. So, I can’t prove it, but I honestly think that there are people who run for Congress now not because they actually want to be in Congress, but because they actually want to be lobbyists, and so they want that credential that allows them to get the job that they want.

Do you think they see lobbying as basically a reward they’ve earned from working on Capitol Hill?

Well, yes, and not only that. I learned this from Jack Abramoff: he would go to … Congressional staffers and basically say, Look, if you do this favor for me, there’s a guaranteed job for you the day you decide to leave Capitol Hill. I don’t know if that’s literally bribery, but it certainly borders on it … This was a revelation to me, because that was never the case when I worked on Capitol Hill. But now, I think that people do understand that these options are there and it does encourage them to push the limits of what might be legally or ethically justifiable.

Let me add a footnote to this, one of the things about lobbying that I never see anybody report on, but it is extremely insidious.

Sure, go ahead. What is it?

The employment of spouses and children of members of Congress [in lobbying firms]. Now this information has to be disclosed on their financial disclosure forms, but I’m not aware of anybody who collects it and analyzes it systematically. It’s very common for the wife or husband of some member of Congress to get a job at some lobbying company or some government relations office — and, frankly, a lot of times these jobs are not real jobs. These people are not being hired for their expertise. They’re hired simply to ingratiate the business with the member of Congress and to create a very opportunities for de facto lobbying through the normal, social things that go on in any business. This is very very common, I’m afraid. For some reason it just seems to be off-limits for people to complain about it.

Well, I’m complaining about it right here.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.