Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Secret Laws

Talk about strange bedfellows!

President Barack Obama wants "fast track" trade promotion authority. That would give him greater freedom in negotiating trade agreements, limiting input by Congress to giving each an up or down vote — no discussion or amendment or conditions allowed.

The strange bedfellows? Most of President Obama's fellow Democrats are opposing the "fast track" trade promotion authority. We're told that's because they're being paid by the unions (big labor) to oppose it. Most of the Republicans are supporting it. We're told that's because they're being paid by big business to support it.

The first thing President Obama wants to get passed after he gets his "fast track" authority is his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the largest trade deals in history. That's part of the problem as politicians' positions on the "fast track" bill are apparently driven — perhaps entirely — by their positions on the TPP bill.

Yes, President Obama already has a bill drafted for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In Obama's words, that bill is "the most progressive trade deal in history." Because of that, one would think the Democrats would support it and the Republicans would oppose it, while the opposite has turned out to be true.

Yes, President Obama has a bill drafted for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But I can't tell you what's in it. Even if I had read it, I wouldn't be able to tell you. That's because very few people have been allowed to read it — under draconian conditions that allow no notes or other information to be taken from the basement reading room. Those who read it are not allowed to discuss the bill or even talk about it. As Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio says, "There is more access in most cases to CIA and Defense Department and Iran sanctions documents — better access to congressional staff and others — than for this trade agreement."

That's made a lot of folks wonder. Mostly they wonder "Under what authority can Obama keep his TPP trade deal secret?" This is a real case of "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it." Much more so than the case of Obamacare that produced this Nancy Pelosi quotation.

That's related to what I wonder. I wonder what in the bill is so bad that Obama is afraid to let anyone know about it. If the bill wasn't that bad, Obama would be spinning his heard out to get everyone to (at least) stay quiet as it gets passed.

All those limitations, on who can read the bill and what they can say about it afterward (nothing!) are where I begin and end. If the bill is so bad that Obama cannot allow it to be revealed and discussed, then it should never be considered by either house of Congress or any committee of either house of Congress. It should be dumped in the trash bin where it clearly belongs.

Indeed, in my view, NO bill that cannot be openly reported and discussed should ever be considered by the Congress.

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