This past Thursday, the House of Representatives cleared a stand-alone Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill—better known as “Fast Track.” The move came as a result of the crushing defeat of a package of trade bills in the House where Fast Track failed to advance beyond the House because it was packaged with a trade adjustment assistance measure that went down in flames.
Last week, House leaders—who have been relentless advocates, alongside President Obama, for pushing trade agreements—resorted to a new approach that tied the Fast Track bill to a measure intended to allow fire fighters access to their own retirement savings once they reach retirement age. The bill measure was approved by a vote of 218 to 208, with no notable shifts in opposition or support by House members.
Fast Track now heads to the Senate, where its fate remains unclear. Last month, the Senate voted in favor of advancing a full trade package that included Fast Track and three other bills: a trade adjustment assistance bill (TAA), a bill with provisions covering enforcement for Customs and Border Patrol, and the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).
AGOA is a trade preference program designed to facilitate investment and trade between the U.S. and parts of Africa. It’s a seemingly non-controversial measure that has received broad bipartisan support in both chambers, although some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have requested that AGOA not be used as a ploy to get Fast Track passed. (Click here to read the CBC’s letter.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who gained the support of 14 Democrats the last time the Senate considered a Fast Track package, now will need 11 to advance a Fast Track–only measure this week, followed by consideration of a separate package that includes AGOA and an extension of TAA.
However, a handful of Democratic senators have signaled their uncertainty on this particular Fast Track measure for several reasons. Some want to consider the full package of trade proposals, some are insisting that TAA be repackaged first, and some are insisting on a separate vote to reauthorize yet another measure: the Export-Import Bank, another highly contentious issue in trade package consideration that many House Republicans oppose.
For now, the Senate is expected to vote on a stand-alone Fast Track bill Tuesday or Wednesday. If that passes, it will be delivered directly to President Obama.
If your head isn’t spinning yet, keep reading.
Senators then will take up the package of trade preferences and TAA, setting up a final vote on those on either Wednesday or Thursday. If these measures pass, they will need further consideration by the House before advancing further. House lawmakers have given themselves until July 30 to find a way forward—but there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty at the moment.
“I don’t see a path right now for TAA,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who voted against Thursday’s stand-alone bill and also against the package deal. “The overwhelming vote last week to slow down ‘fast track’ trade authority is a clear indication that it’s time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to negotiate a better deal for the American people.”
“Unfortunately, our battle against Fast Track is far from over,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando, who encouraged letter carriers to keep checking the website for updates and to make sure they’re signed up as e-Activists to get news delivered right to their inboxes.
ACTION ITEM: NALC encourages all letter carriers to keeping thanking the House members who voted against Fast Track and against TAA. Letter carriers also are encouraged to let their senators know about NALC’s opposition to consideration of these bills.
“Members of Congress need to know that letter carriers appreciate their support,” said Rolando. “They also need to know that enough is enough. It’s time to move on to more pressing issues before they depart for the August recess.”
Click here to read NALC’s statement prior to last week’s House vote.
Click here to read more about last week’s vote and to find out why Fast Track would be dangerous for letter carriers and the Postal Service.
Click here to read a letter from the presidents of NALC, APWU and NPMHU urging a “no” vote on Fast Track.