I’m seeing a lot of nasty, bitter comments lately from hard core free traders about the growing GOP opposition to giving Barack Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, usually known as Fast Track), so that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) can get an up-or-down vote. Populism, hurting Americans, protectionism, rabble rabble rabble.
Well, you know what? Don’t blame the politicians turning on this. Blame the GOP Establishment for making the base so difficult to sell on this issue.
Yes, I know, only Dick Nixon of postwar Presidents has not had TPA. Yes, I know, Scott Lincicome has a great post explaining the controversial parts of the situation. It’s all true, and it’s all entirely irrelevant, because the real problem here is a lack of trust.
The fact is, President Obama’s negotiating partners don’t want to finish the TPP negotiations until TPA passes. Until TPA passes, the draft TPP documents will remain secret. That’s a problem because everyone knows the TPA vote is being pushed now because of the TPP, and telling GOP voters we have to pass the TPA to find out what’s in the TPP is just the worst messaging ever.
And conservatives are getting savvy to this sort of procedural vote in the Senate. Conservatives know that it’s not the vote for passage that matters, it’s the vote on cloture that decides whether the bill will pass. So, to the activist base, the TPA vote smells like the real vote on TPP. Can you blame them? TPA, like cloture, is a rule the Congress imposes on itself to force an up-or-down vote.
So at this point, conservatives are being asked to accept that Republicans must vote for TPA, so that the TPP can pass. Oh, and they’re being asked to accept that TPP is probably a good thing, despite us having to pass TPA to find out what’s in TPP, but even if it weren’t, it wouldn’t pass. Except, see above. We’ve seen time and again Republicans make show votes, after casting the Cloture vote that really decided whether the bill would pass.
It comes down to trust. And the GOP establishment has consistently failed to show any backbone when it comes to fighting Obama. They’re constantly telling us that the good, responsible thing is to pass this bill, but we’ll fight the next time. Only, next time never comes.
So save the righteous indignation against the populist conservatism in the GOP today. If you want to be mad at anyone, blame [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] and [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] for being spineless wimps who have caved to Obama so many times, that the base can’t possibly trust them on this now.
So I have no problem with Rick Perry and others questioning TPA right now. We need more of them if we want more free trade deals. If we want more free trade deals, we need to sell the public, and that means we need to fix the cronyist climate. Until then, Perry is listening to the voters, and free traders had better do that, too.
After TARP turned into a corporate giveaway, Obamacare turned into a corporate giveaway, Ex-Im was revealed to be a corporate giveaway, amnesty is believed to be a corporate giveaway, they want to end the sequester because the corporate contractors want mo’ money, when the same dang people come to us and insist it’s the Responsible Thing To Do, you’ve got to forgive the GOP base for thinking we’re just hearing the same song again.
Me, personally? I’d just unilaterally reduce tariffs and let other countries tax themselves all they wanted. But politics is the art of the possible, and the GOP establishment is making it impossible to do anything that works with the President at this point. They’ve cried wolf too many times.
Image by Public Knowledge.