How Fast Track Works and Why It Must be Stopped

President Barack Obama will soon submit to Congress a draft bill that would set aside Regular Order and grant him Fast Track Trade Negotiating Authority, also called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).The bill:

- Allows the President to select countries with which to enter into trade agreements, set the substance of the talks and then sign those pacts without prior Congressional approval.

- Allows the President to negotiate and include in these trade agreements not only tariffs and quotas, but also changes in federal, state and local laws on taxes, food and health safety, patents, copyrights, trademarks, immigration, Environment, Labor standards, and Buy America provisions, among many other issues.

- Creates a Presidential advisory system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the President. These advisors have access to confidential negotiating documents that are kept secret from most members of Congress and the public.

- Empowers the President to draft the agreement’s implementing legislation without Congressional input.

- Requires the President to notify Congress 90 days before signing and entering into an agreement, but gives the President unlimited time to submit the implementing bill.

- Requires House and Senate Leaders to introduce the President’s bill on the following first legislative day their House is in session.

- Requires that the legislation be discharged from Committees 45 days after submission.

- Requires a floor vote 15 days after the bill is discharged from Committees.

- Allows only 20 hours of debate in each House.

- Prohibits any amendments either in Committee or during the floor debate.

- Eliminates several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.

- Prevents a Senate filibuster.

- Requires only a simple majority vote in each House for enactment.

- Embeds these changes in U.S. law into a treaty that requires the 100 percent approval of all other signatory nations before Congress can revoke or change their content.

These trade pacts will have the effect of a treaty, though the Constitution requires a two thirds majority vote by the Senate for the United States to enter into a treaty.

President Bill Clinton used his Fast Track authority to include many extraneous items, including earmarks and domestic items, in what became the “must pass” NAFTA and World Trade Organization implementing bills. Fast Track prohibited opponents from amending or omitting these items. Should President Obama choose, he also could use Fast Track implementing legislation to enact domestic laws he otherwise has been unable to secure through Regular Order.