by Ann Garrison and John Banister
Barack Obama may get one last chance to arrive at a “Grand Bargain” with the Republicans, in the lame duck session of Congress following the November election. That’s when he might push a vote for his Trans Pacific Partnership corporate rights legislation, which is strong in the GOP but weak with Democrats. Bill Clinton, Obama’s political mentor, showed the way when he rammed through NAFTA against the wishes of his own party, a generation ago.
Obama and Clinton Collude to Ram TPP through Lame Duck Congress
by Ann Garrison and John Banister
“With 34 Senate seats for election, and the Stop Trump Crusade in full swing, a Democratic Senate seems quite possible in January.”
Are Obama and Clinton counting on Republican majorities to Pass Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Or, should we ask whether the Pope is Catholic? Why else would President Barack Obama be so determined that November/December’s lame duck Congress, with Republican majorities in both House and Senate, vote on the TPP? And, why did Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s majority representatives on the Democratic platform committee block any opposition to a vote by the lame duck Congress? What else explains either phenomenon? Support for the TPP has always been majority Republican, despite considerable Democratic support in the Senate and Obama’s own unflagging dedication. If lame duck Republican majorities pass the TPP, Obama can claim his vicious, anti-worker trade legacy, and Hillary can take office without taking the heat. So much for Obama’s 2014 plea to get Cousin Pookie off the couch to vote for the Democrats.
Horrible things often happen between presidential elections in November and the inauguration of new presidents in January. In 2000, in the final months of his presidency, Bill Clinton worked with Republicans to pass the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, the Wall Street deregulation bill that tanked the economy and allowed the banks to drive millions of Americans out of their homes. On his last day in office in 2001, Clinton pardoned fugitive commodities dealer and Glencore International founder Mark Rich, who had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list for years for charges that included buying $200 million worth of oil from Iran while it was holding 53 American hostages in 1979 and selling it to Israel. In 2008, as Obama prepared to take office, Israel pounded Gaza with Operation Cast Lead between December 27th and January 18th. The bombardment ended just two days before Obama's inauguration. Then, on Inauguration Day, when all eyes were on the U.S.A.’s first African American President, U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo again with U.S. blessing.
So, why not ram through the TPP when everyone’s trying to get home for the holidays? Much as Republicans hate handing Obama any kind of victory, and much as Mitch McConnell, R-KY, Richard Burr, R-NC, and Thomas Till, R-NC, dislike exemptions that would allow TPP-participating nations to issue health warnings without compensating tobacco farmers, they might see this as their last chance, too.
“Bill Clinton worked with Republicans to pass the Wall Street deregulation bill that tanked the economy and allowed the banks to drive millions of Americans out of their homes.”
In 2015, 60 Senators voted to fast track the TPP, 37 voted not to, giving it a comfortable margin of 23 votes. Forty-seven Republicans and thirteen Democrats voted for it; 30 Democrats plus two Independents and 5 Republicans voted against. With 34 Senate seats up for election, and the Stop Trump Crusade in full swing, a Democratic Senate seems quite possible in January. The Week reports that, “Trump not only loses to Hillary Clinton in nearly every general election match-up, he also fares poorly in those states where Republican senators are most vulnerable, like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.” However, even if Democrats retake the Senate, it’s most unlikely that enough will oppose the TPP to make up a 23 vote deficit. The pro-TPP Democratic Senators buffer is too great for that.
The House, however, is a different story. Despite the Republicans’ 247 to 188 majority, the House fast tracked the TPP by only 218 to 208, a mere 10 votes. One hundred and ninety Republicans and 28 Democrats voted for it. Fifty Republicans and 158 Democrats voted against. Enough odious political deals might be struck between now and Inauguration Day to eliminate such a small margin of resistance before it has any chance to swell in the wake of the Stop Trump Crusade.
Mitch McConnell, R-KY, speaking to the Washington Post on December 10th, 2015, suggested another grim explanation for Obama’s determination to get the TPP through the lame duck Congress and Hillary’s corporate absolutist refusal to allow any opposition into the Dem platform. “It certainly shouldn’t come before the election,” he said. “I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election. There’s significant pushback all over the place.”
In other words, Obama shouldn’t try to pass the TPP until after the November elections because Senators and Representatives won’t vote for it until the voters have re-elected them, at which point they’ll feel free to vote against the voters’ interests and hope we forget it by the next election. The corporate media will no doubt drown any holiday rage in effusions about our first woman president succeeding our first African American president.
We’ve assumed that anyone reading this already knows what’s wrong with the TPP, but just in case not, see Nader’s 10 Reasons That the TPP Is Not a ‘Progressive’ Trade Agreement, by Ralph Nader in TruthDig, The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History, by Chris Hedges in TruthDig, Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a “Black Issue by Ajamu Baraka in the Black Agenda Report, As Desperation Over TPP Grows, So Does Obama's Dishonesty, by Margaret Flowers in Popular Resistance, and With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, It's Obama and the GOP vs. the Democrats by Thom Hartmann in TruthOut.
The question is, of course, “How to stop it?” Aside from all the suggestions at Flush the TPP. Harshly as we feel towards Bernie Sanders today, we considered calling his Press Secretary to ask whether he’ll support the TPP platform fight now certain to unfold at the Democratic National Convention, but we don’t really care that much about what Bernie will do next. We care about what kind of highly televised platform fight the Bernie delegates will mount on the DNC convention floor and what the the crowd will be doing outside in the streets of Philadelphia.
Ann Garrison is a wrier living in Oakland, California. John Bannister is a writer living in Alameda, California.