by Tim Danahey
The Obama administration is pushing forward with two major programs that will affect its legacy for generations. The current waterfall of news is regarding the tentative agreement with Iran to limit Iran’s nuclear weapon capabilities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. It is a multi-national agreement that binds each participating nation to strict rules.
The second piece of Obama’s legacy is receiving a trickle of news although none of it is from the major media outlets. This piece is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a multi-national agreement that binds each participating nation to strict rules.
The hypocrisy arises over the legislative attention and procedures given to these two programs. The Senate has raised many red flags over the agreement with Iran. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennesee) is drafting legislation with Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) that would assure the President submits the full text of the agreement to Congress, including classified materials. It also prevents any removal of sanctions for sixty days.
Senator Corker is quoted, “We want the right to go through the details of the deal and to decide whether congressionally mandated sanctions should be alleviated.” He and his fellow Senators want the time to run a fine-toothed comb through the proposed agreement. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) is the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and expressed he wants unanimity to review the proposed accord and he that some aspects of the legislation may have to be toned down.
All of these are commendable objectives. The Senate is right to demand adequate time to review the agreement, make amendments, and subject the treaty to a two-thirds Senate Majority. That’s good governance.
But this begs the question: Why is the Senate then willing to support Fast Track to restrict them to 24 hours to review the TPP treaty, not allow amendments by stating it is “take it or leave it”, and re-naming the treaty into an “agreement” so as to only require a simple majority?
When Representative Eliot Engel of New York (ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee) is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “If Congress appears to be bypassed, that’s not good for the national debate and national unity as we move forward with Iran.”, then why is that also not applicable to the procedures involved with TPP? Are national debate and national unity over the TPP not important? Isn’t the transparency standard desired for the agreement with Iran the same standard for an agreement affecting 40% of the world’s GDP?
It’s a double-standard of the highest order than Congress rightfully demands legislative review and amendments with our treaty with Iran and foregoes its Constitutionally-mandated responsibility to review, amend, advise, and consent with a 2/3s majority for the TPP.
Save the Senate quotes about their responsibilities to the country. We’ll need them as TPP comes to an ugly head.