(Wonk Alert) This week I’ve heard some congressional staff erroneously claim that Congress can rescind fast track procedures if the Obama administration fails to achieve the 150 negotiating objectives. This is not true.
The Hatch/Wyden/Ryan trade authority bill introduced last week was promoted as an improvement over prior trade authority bills. It “puts Congress in the driver’s seat”. In reality, it is a Gilligan’s Island rerun of past bills.
A so-called “exit ramp” in the bill, called a “procedural disapproval resolution” is a farce. Impossible in practice, not new and actually more difficult than in the 2002 TPA. The “procedural disapproval resolution” that must be approved by by BOTH the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee and then be passed by BOTH the House and the Senate all within 60 days. (Sec (6)(b)(1-2)). This resolution procedure is only available after the President signs the trade deal and submits the implementing legislation – i.e. the legislation describing all statutory changes needed that are “necessary and strictly appropriate” to implement the trade deal. The bases for the resolution are limited to the administration’s failure to notify and consult congress or if the agreement “fail[s] to make progress in achieving” Congress’ objectives. Congress cannot approve a disapproval resolution for the administration’s failure to achieve the negotiating objectives so long as some “progress” was made overall. (Sec 6(b)(1)(A)(ii)).
Public Citizen further points out that the process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement. In contrast, the 1988 Fast Track empowered either the House Ways and Means or the Senate Finance committees to vote by simple majority to remove a pact from Fast Track consideration, with no additional floor votes required. And, such a disapproval action was authorized before a president could sign and enter into a trade agreement. (19 USC 2903(c)(2)(B)).
If I worked for the Washington Post fact checker, I would have to assign Four Pinochios to the “exit ramp” claim by TPA cheerleaders.