One of the big items remaining on the president’s Legacy Bucket List is securing a trade agreement deal with the Pacific Rim. The president believes that America’s future economic growth flows through the Far East and he is highly motivated to get a deal signed.
In order to avoid watching any eventual deal get lost in the quicksand of Washington politics, the president has asked congress to “fast track” any deal that the president brings to the floor. “Fast Track Authority” means that congress authorizes the president to enter into a trade agreement and agrees to pass or reject the deal with a simple “yes” or “no” vote; relinquishing any authority to amend or filibuster the proposal.
As you might expect the idea of “fast tracking” this bill or any other for that matter has met some resistance in congress. However, this time the battle lines are not following the usual partisan path that lawmakers have walked some many times before. This time it’s the Republicans standing on the president’s side of the battlefield.
Actually it makes sense. The Republicans favor a trade deal with the Far East because the big corporate donors that fill Republican coffers say it is good for business. Anything that is good for the business community is good for Republicans. And if relinquishing the right to amend or filibuster the agreement gets it done sooner rather than later…fast track here we come.
Democrats are opposed. They say that trade agreements have a way of lowering wages and costing American jobs. At least that is what the union leaders that pour huge campaign dollars into Democratic pockets told them to say. To Democrats fast tracking a trade agreement is just paving the way to lower wages and fewer good paying jobs.
Keep in mind what our elected leaders are quibbling about is whether or not to grant the president fast track authority. Once a deal is secured it still has to pass a yes or no floor vote. We haven’t even gotten to the details of the agreement.
Oh, by the way…members of congress can read the details of the tentative agreement before it comes to the floor. All they have to do is go to this vault in the bowels of the capitol building where the latest version is displayed under lock and key. There, your congressman can read the 1,000+ page agreement. Note taking and photos are not permitted. Apparently this is a common occurrence for some pieces of legislation that are deemed sensitive enough to be held close to the vest until they are brought to the floor for deliberation.
Seriously? Are we living in Putinville?
And so goes another day in the halls of the latest version of the Do Nothing Congress. Congress could be passing a job producing infrastructure bill to repair and modernize our crumbling transportation system. But that involves agreeing on how to pay for it. They could be working on the government funding bill that is due in the next few weeks. But why worry about shutting down the government today when you can deal with it at the eleventh hour. They could be voting to approve a host of judicial appointments that the president has presented. But Senate Majority Leader McConnell says that there won’t be any further judicial appointments for the remainder of the president’s term in office. Why? Because he can. They could be working on immigration reform or authorizing a now ten month old military campaign against ISIS. But “war votes” are congressional suicide and deporting illegals is messy. Lindsey Graham has yet another abortion bill he would like them to consider. They might find the time to look that one over. Or maybe they’ll just chill. Nice work if you can get it.
If you ask any elected official why congress can’t seem to get anything done I guarantee that most of them will tell you: “It’s complicated.”
Being a single parent raising two kids on a minimum wage job is complicated. Having a mortgage and two kids in college when Bain Capital closes down your plant is complicated.
Failing to get things done because you are more worried about keeping your $174,000 job than you are about doing the business of the people that elected you to congress is NOT complicated.