March 30, 2013

Obama's latest end run around the Constitution

Margaret Flowers & Kevin Zeese, Truthout - On critical issues, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration will undermine democracy in the United States and around the world and further empower transnational corporations. It will circumvent protections for health care, wages, labor rights, consumers' rights and the environment, and decrease regulation of big finance and risky investment practices.

The only way this treaty, which will be very unpopular with the American people once they are aware of it, can be approved is if the Obama administration avoids the democratic process by using an authority known as "Fast Track," which limits the constitutional checks and balances of Congress.

If the TPP is approved, the sovereignty of the United States and other member nations will be dissipated by trade tribunals that favor corporate power and force national laws to be subservient to corporate interests.

President Nixon first developed the idea of "Fast Track" in 1973 as a way to secure Congressional approval of trade agreements, and it has been a key to passing many unpopular agreements such as the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. Fast Track expired in 2007, so President Obama must have it re-instated in order to pass the TPP. His administration is moving to have Fast Track approved and hopes it will happen by this summer.

Under Fast Track, the president was allowed to negotiate and sign trade agreements with whatever countries the executive branch selected - all before Congress voted on the agreement. Fast Track meant that the Congressional committee processes were circumvented and the executive branch was empowered to write lengthy implementing legislation for each trade pact without Congress. These executive-only authored bills required US law to conform to the trade agreement. For example, Glass-Steagall had to be repealed under President Clinton to conform to the WTO. And, Fast Track empowered the president to submit the executive-branch written bill for a mandatory vote within a set number of days, with all amendments forbidden, normal Senate rules waived, and debate limited in both chambers of Congress. Fast Track clearly undermined democracy.


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