The US Trade Representative is pushing Congress hard for "Trade Promotion Authority," which would give the President's representatives the right to sign treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership without giving Congress any chance to oversee and debate the laws that America is promising to pass. With "Trade Promotion Authority" (also called "fast track"), Congress's only role in treaties would be to say "yes" or "no" to whatever the US Trade Rep negotiated — so if the USTR papered over a bunch of sweetheart deals for political cronies with a single provision that politicians can't afford to say no to, that'll be that.
Not coincidentally, the TPP is one long sweetheart deal with a couple of political sweeteners that no Congresscritter can afford to kill.
The USTR's push for Trade Promotion Authority contains some of the stupidest, easy-to-debunk lies I've ever read. Either the Obama Administration figures that Congress is thicker than pigshit, or the USTR drafted this to give tame Congresscritters cover for selling out the people they represent to the corporations that fund their campaigns.
Techdirt's Mike Masnick has undertaken the unpleasant chore of documenting and rebutting the Trade Rep's falsehoods point-by-point.
TPA does not provide new power to the Executive Branch.
Hell yes, it does. Trade Promotion Authority gives the power of regulating foreign commerce directly to the USTR, rather than Congress. It allows the USTR to negotiate a "final" agreement with other countries, which Congress cannot seek to change, amend or fix. Instead, Congress can only give a simple "yes or no" vote on what the USTR comes back with. Without TPA, the USTR actually needs to engage Congress, and win its support and approval on everything within the agreement. That gives Congress — which is supposed to represent the public — a chance to make sure that (as the USTR has shown a proclivity to do) the agreement is not filled with ridiculous "gifts" for cronies and friends at the expense of the public and disruptive innovation.
TPA is a legislative procedure, written by Congress, through which Congress defines U.S. negotiating objectives and spells out a detailed oversight and consultation process for during trade negotiations.
If TPA didn't tie Congress' own hands, the USTR might have a point here. But it's not true. While the TPA bill does officially "define" the negotiating objectives, those objectives listed in the current bill are basically the USTR's own list of what it's working on, reprinted by friends in Congress. And, honestly, how is it possible that it "spells out detailed oversight," when what the bill really does is make sure that the USTR can give Congress whatever it comes up with and say "take it or leave it"? Without TPA, the USTR actually has to go convince Congress that what it's been proposing (secretly and with no public review) is actually in the public interest.
The Lies The USTR Is Spreading About Fast Track Authority To Push TPP Through Congress [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]