Why the Black Caucus Could Be Game Changers After House Slows Down Fast Track Bill
After the Trade Promotion Authority passes the House by two votes, TRNN’s Jessica Desvarieux speaks with Baltimore’s Congressman Cummings and looks at the three Congressional Black Caucus members who voted for the bill despite past trade agreements’ negative impact on minority communities
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: On Friday, President Obama met with fellow Democrats to make his final plea for fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The House would have to pass two bills in order to move the fast-track process forward, the first being trade adjustment assistance, or TAA, which would provide job training to those who lose their job in the future due to the agreement. But when it came down to a vote–.
– The question is on the motion. All those in favor say aye. All those opposed, no.
DESVARIEUX: Opponents won in the end, with only one quarter of the Democratic caucus voting for the TAA, a program traditionally largely supported by Democrats.
But a much closer vote came with the bill known as Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast-track. The most contentious bill would allow the President to finalize a deal with countries involved in the TPP, as well as give Congress only an up or down vote on the final agreement.
The bill needed 218 votes to pass. Ahead of the vote at least 30 Republicans were against the bill, so the President needed Democrats to vote in favor of it. So President Obama leaned on Congressional Black Caucus members to get the bill through the House. He even invited representatives to the White House so he could lobby them to get fast-track approved.
In the end, the bill received 219 votes, squeaking through with only one extra vote. Three Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the bill: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Congresswoman Terri Sewell of Alabama, and Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York.
AJUMA BARAKA, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Gregory Meeks has been the lead person for the Obama administration on this piece of legislation. He’s been the one that’s been the most aggressive in trying to persuade members of the Congressional Black Caucus to betray their constituents. So we fully expected his vote.
But the very fact that they only were able to persuade, he was only able to persuade two other members, I think speaks to the potential we have even still with the Congressional Black Caucus. We’ve been, we’ve been disappointed in them in the past, and they still may flip on the vote next week. But we’re going to make sure that they understand that there will a price to be paid if they in fact flip and betray their constituents on this vote on the TAA.
DESVARIEUX: Next week the TAA and the TPA will be revisited in the House. For some members of Congress one week will not make a difference since they are a firm no on the TPP.
The Real News caught up with Democratic Maryland representative Elijah Cummings in the speakers’ lobby, where photography is not allowed. He says that after reading the TPP himself, it’s a bad deal for workers and minorities in cities like Baltimore.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): I live in a city which has back in the 1960–late ’60s, early ’70s, one out of every three jobs was manufacturing. Today it’s one out of 15. And their numbers are diminishing. It’s phenomenal. And I think that they have made this a major [force], and made it clear. And I think for them to be harmed here could strike a very detrimental blow to income inequality and the rights of workers.
DESVARIEUX: Standing for the rights of workers and all citizens is what groups like PopularResistance.org say they will continue to do. This week they occupied Congress overnight, and anticipate this fight to be ongoing.
KEVIN ZEESE, CO-DIRECTOR, POPULARRESISTANCE.ORG: The majority’s still on our side, but the fear is that they control the House floor. They know when the vote starts and when it ends. And in the history of fast-track and trade agreements, multiple times they’ve held the vote open longer than legally allowed. One time they even held it–when the summer session began they kept holding it into the summer session, to get this, that, just the majority they needed. So controlling that House schedule is our biggest worry.
DESVARIEUX: For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.