Six days after Democrats deserted President Barack Obama on the signature trade issue of his administration, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday to grant presidential “fast track” authority to negotiate trade deals, including the Trans Pacific Partnership, a controversial 12-nation agreement with Pacific Rim nations.
The passage of the measure, by a 218-208 vote, is one of several that need to wind its way through Congress for Obama to get all that he needs regarding the TPP. In a statement, an angry U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson called the vote “an unpardonable offense against America’s workers, the American economy, workers in other nations, our environment, and American sovereignty.”
“We just ceded our ability to ensure that our trade deals actually benefit America,” the Orlando-area Democratic congressman said in a prepared statement. “We didn’t vote for ‘free trade,’ we voted for ‘fake trade.’ We have voted to increase our trade deficit, which in turn will increase our budget deficit. Our trade debt is $11 trillion right now – that’s over $35,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. We have made it easier for other countries to sell us their goods, and then use their profits to buy our assets. We’ve just paved the way for more deals like NAFTA that hurt our workers and our economy. For the past 14 years, we’ve had a trade deficit of half a trillion dollars every year … more than a billion dollars a day.”
Grayson is with the majority of House Democrats to oppose all aspects of the trade deal. If Obama is to see the legislation get to his desk, he has to rely primarily on House Republicans, usually his ideological foes.
Grayson released his statement while political observers in the Sunshine State await his possible entrance into the Democratic race for U.S. Senate next year. He has told reporters that he will probably get into the contest, where Democrats Patrick Murphy and Pam Keith have already declared their candidacies.
“Despite the outcome, I want to thank the thousands of people who called our office, and other representatives, to urge us to vote against this bill,” Grayson said. “The fact that this vote was so close shows that their voices were heard. And I promise them, and America’s workers, that I will continue to fight against trade giveaways that do not improve our economy or improve the lives of our workers.”
Murphy also voted against the trade deal. In a prepared statement, he said, “I cannot support trade legislation that asks Congress to establish a framework for a deal that is already near completion. Congress’ No. 1 job is oversight, and the Constitution grants us the authority to regulate trade in this country. This legislation is coming to the floor with limited debate and very little room for us to amend it, and in order to protect Florida jobs, labor standards, and the environment, I must oppose giving away Congress’ oversight authority.”