Diary

You Only Think You Know Why the Trade Deal is Nearly Dead

Update May 13: The Senate has reached some sort of agreement to try again. The procedure will start with a vote on the anti-currency manipulation clause. After that there will be a separate vote on cloture for the actual TPA. Excuse me if I don’t delve further into the weeds here. I’m trying to preserve what few brain cells I have left.

What’s This About

I don’t believe for a minute that Senate Democrats voted against President Obama on the trade deal. Read on to learn why.

The Vote

Yesterday the Senate voted 45-52 against cutting off debate on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. (60 votes are needed to stop debate under Senate rules.) Most of those voting “no” were Democrats. Led by [mc_name name=’Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000817′ ] (D-MA) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Mars), the progressive wing of the party was in full hue and cry, pouring out sentiments favoring labor, the environment, and (most likely) the changing phases of the moon. (That last activity may have involved howling and/or cult rituals best not described in a family publication.) Even the bill’s co-author, [mc_name name=’Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000779′ ] (D-OR) voted against stopping the filibuster.[1]

One Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), voted for cloture. Majority Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] (R-KY) voted no. To their everlasting disgrace Sens. [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ] (R-SC) and [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] (R-FL) did not vote, joining Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ).

Other than those exceptions, it was a pure party-line vote. And the media are screaming about the split in the Democrat party. Tip to conservatives: don’t bet the ranch on that.

Watch What He Does, Ignore What He Says

For the past six years [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] has carried barrels — nay, entire tanker car loads — of water for President Obama. Any bill that was even remotely likely to create controversy was killed in the Senate. The Senate has already held more votes this session than that august body held in all of 2014. Yet now we are to believe [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] has grown a spine and is standing up to the president?

If there’s one thing we know about President Obama, it’s that he routinely makes statements that are directly contradicted by his actions. Sometimes even his statements include internal contradictions. The latest travesty is his talk at the Georgetown University May 12 “Conversation on Poverty.” He stated that, “the poverty rate when you take into account tax and transfer programs, has been reduced about 40% since 1967.”[2] But he then went on to make this remarkable statement:

And that accumulated and built up. And over time, people with less and less resources, more and more strains—because it’s hard being poor. People don’t like being poor. It’s time-consuming; it’s stressful. It’s hard. And so over time, families frayed. Men who could not get jobs left. Mothers who are single are not able to read as much to their kids. So all that was happening 40 years ago to African-Americans. And now what we’re seeing is that those same trends have accelerated and they’re spreading to the broader community.

In other words, poverty has declined while its root causes have increased. Amazing! Co-panelist Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute should have given a standing ovation to the resilience of the U.S. economy.

Speculating About Behind the Scenes

So let’s consider what President Obama really wants. He has made many comments supporting TPA. But can we really believe that’s the policy he is really backing? Chances are there is a wink-wink nudge-nudge between [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] and the President. [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] is still carrying water for the President. But now that he’s minority leader, he has to be a bit less obvious about it.

My conclusion: President Obama is, in reality, trying to kill the TPA.

[1] For politics geeks, the bill was HR-1314. Ignore the description, “Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act.” HR-1314 was merely the vehicle for the cloture vote, much as the U.S. dollar is a vehicle currency for many foreign exchange transactions.

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/12/remarks-president-conversation-poverty-georgetown-university accessed May 13, 2015.