TPA in the House

In light of a recent Wikileak’s publication https://wikileaks.org/tisa/ of the proposed TISA trade agreement along with this analysis; http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31370-fast-track-hands-the-money-monopoly-to-private-banks-permanently# it’s clear a previous BlueLouisa posting about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did not adequately convey just how bad this and other pending trade deals are.

tpp2

In order for the United States to participate in these agreements, Congress first has to pass the Trade Promotion Authority bill (TPA), which would give the President the authority to; recommend international trade agreements to Congress, limits their ability to debate it, allows for no amendments, and calls for a straight majority yes or no vote to approve these trade agreements.

If Congress passes this bill, it would transform the Presidents trade recommendations to Congress into offers a rubber stamped body can’t refuse, giving he and any future president the authority to circumvent Congresses role in monitoring those agreements. Turning his request for “greater flexibility in trade negotiations” into another way of saying let me throw some constitutional insult on top of that economic injury.

Despite the best efforts of White House staff and an obliging media to portray this as a clash of personalities between the President and members of Congress, nothing is further from the truth. It is a bi-partisan smoke screen designed to take the public’s eye away from the fact that giving any president this kind of unilateral authority for any reason is a seriously bad idea.

Like others Presidents before him, President Obama argues that granting him fast-track authority allow him to make trade deals not previously possible.  In his case, a claim which conveniently overlooks the fact that Wall Street interests and multinational corporations are writing all three of these international trade deals in secret, along with conducting a PR campaign that whitewashes how these trade agreements will affect American workers, farmers, and consumers.

On Friday, June 12th, the House voted on three separate parts of the trade authorization bill — H.R. 1314. House Speaker John Boehner deliberately structured the process so that all three had to pass or the entire Trade Promotion Authority package would not advance.

A procedural maneuver little removed from high stakes riverboat gambling, except this three-bit parlay wasn’t a long shot on winning; it was a sure bet to lose. Betting to lose because the TPA will pass, no matter how convoluted a route it travels. In this case, a route that starts with the trade-adjustment assistance (TAA) measure being soundly defeated in the House by a 302 to 126 margin. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll361.xml

In order for the TPA package to clear the House it had to include a TAA provision like the Senate version. Because the failed TAA motion was joined at the hip with TPA, the entire bill went into a state of political limbo, not entirely dead—but not entirely alive either.

But like many zombie ideas, fast track authorization is one that refuses to die. Speaking of reanimating the dead, at the conclusion of the TAA vote, Speaker Boehner moved to reconsider that the vote be rejected. After putting the motion to reconsider to an unrecorded voice vote, he imperiously announced that the ayes had prevailed.

Had this end run around the Houses procedures been allowed to stand it would have effectively severed Trade Assistance from the TPA package, ensuring its passage in the House. But after congressman Sander Levin demanded a recorded vote, Boehner postponed further proceedings, announcing the matter would be reconsidered later.

Following that “unexpected” defeat, the Republican leadership quickly called for a motion to concur with (aka accept in it’s entirety) the Senate’s version of the Trade Promotion Authority bill which narrowly passed by a 219 to 211 margin on the strength of 191 Republican votes. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/ 2015/roll362.xml

Out of parlor tricks, their only  option to pass TPA was to schedule another vote the following week, leaving plenty of time for another Congressional bait and switch. And the evening before the TPA vote, the House Rules Committee attached a “clean” fast-track TPA bill to — H.R. 2146 which allows certain Federal employees to make penalty-free withdrawals from their governmental plans after age 50.

The House passed it the following day by a nearly identical 218-208 vote, without any provisions for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll374.xml. The TPA bill then went back to the Senate for further reconsideration; where after an earlier prolonged fight over trade assistance it was unlikely they would do so a second time. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ 2015/06/17/house-vote-clean-tpa_n_7607224.html.

Allegedly in exchange for Democrats agreeing to pass TPA through the House and Senate, the Republican controlled Senate would pass TAA for displaced workers, through an attachment to an African trade preferences bill.  After it passes the Senate, it goes back to the House.

Where despite trade assistance being soundly defeated less that two weeks ago, it supposedly has a “better” chance of passing after Democratic House leaders agreed on Wednesday not to block it. Although exactly how the Republicans plan to convince 90+ members of the House to reverse their previous vote on TAA is anyone’s guess.

Predictably, the following week TPA passed the Senate by a 60-38 margin with 13 Democrats, including Virginia’s two Senators reprising their votes. Now the Trade Promotion Authority or “fast track” bill sits on President Obama’s desk awaiting his signature, where supposedly he won’t sign it until a TAA measure reaches his desk.

Speaking of our President, there are few stranger threads to this story than the Koch Brother’s sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council, support of him on this issue. http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/resolution-on-trade-promotion-authority/

In case you were wondering, ALEC is an industry sponsored “advisory group” with an extensive network of political connections devoted to “suggesting” pro-business model legislature to state representatives. In their internal documents, ALEC highlighted the Obama administration’s support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “as one part of its strategy to increase competitiveness and employment in the United States.”

Unfortunately if any group has come to be associated in the public’s mind with the problems of letting corporate interests dictate domestic policy, it’s ALEC. And with the Presidents mechanization’s on behalf of TPA costing him the support of the countries major Labor organizations, along with Environmental and Farming groups, who have pledged not to support any Democrat voting for this bill, he’s not helping his parties chances in 2016.

It should also be clear that he isn’t particularly concerned with any political fallout, or even if TAA becomes part of TPA, and that these international trade agreements will soon become a reality.

 

Jon Taylor

 

 

Change in Leadership Needed

My fellow Louisa citizens, it is 2015 and it is high time for a change! As a citizen of this county, many people may not agree with my thoughts or opinions, but like every citizen, I have a right in a (so-called) democratic system of government to voice my opinion wherever I choose to do so and I shall continue to do so without the slightest hesitation.

It is laughable for anyone who has never met me to assume that ignorance is something from which I suffer, but I have never suffered such fools either . Nevertheless, I do prefer to engage in fruitful, productive discussions and/or debates, even with those with whom I differ and always remain open to doing so.

As is quite evident all over this country, we desperately need to move into the 21st century with leadership ready, willing and capable of addressing the new issues facing our communities. We have seen one horrendous video after another of police on city streets in full combat gear, reminiscent of battle scenes in Afghanistan, as well as others engaged in numerous unwarranted and unnecessary attacks on citizens of various ages, races and ethnicities, especially African Americans.

We have an overcrowded, expensive, and outdated warehousing system of imprisonment with little or no rehabilitation sending offenders right back into our communities with no “effective support” or “reentry” programs.

Louisa, as in other areas throughout this is country, has had to make do with much less and must resolve our burgeoning public safety budget as we struggle to move into the 22nd century . We must obtain control over the public safety staff issues and “overtime” which accounts for a major part of that budget – the 2nd largest in the county after the schools.

I am afraid that if we are unable to address this issue with the Sheriff (who has not been able to control any of those costs to date) and our Board of Supervisor representatives immediately, we will certainly be subjected to skyrocketing tax increases beginning in 2016 to cover the cost of housing inmates in the Orange jail when we will have exhausted our subsidy and “overtime” that has run over budget as much as $250,000 in the past.

If there is a need to increase the full-time staff by increasing positions, instead of paying full-time and part-time staff enormous, unanticipated overtime costs, then our leadership devise better plans to utilize funds already allocated.

But the truth is that no one knows (just as in the past) how much it will run (or run over) this year. Remember Louisa houses the largest number of inmates in Orange, even though some of the other counties have larger populations than Louisa.

We had a tax increase this year, so what can we expect next year? Your guess is as good as mine, but neither of us should be guessing! Perhaps, a change in leadership won’t have us guessing anymore either!

Gloria Pope Louisa

Capturing Virginia’s Senate

To have any chance of enacting their legislative priorities over the next two years, Democrats in Virginia will need to pick up at least one seat in the Senate, Giving them a 20-20 split and partial control of the Senate committee assignments along with the Democratic Lt. Governor’s tie breaking vote.

Should they gain 2 seats, they will control the Senate committee assignments as well as ensuring themselves of a majority in the Senate until 2019.

In addition, they will need to pick up at least 2 seats in the House of Delegates if they are to prevent the Republicans from retaining their veto proof super majority over the next two years.

Right now it looks like the Democrats odds of picking up one seat in the Senate are good, beyond that fair to middling, and considerably less for picking up those 2 seats in the House.

Their best chances for Democrats regaining control of the Senate are to keep the seats they already have. Starting with the open 29th Senate seat which encompasses the entire cities of Manassas and Manassas Park and part of Prince William counties, a seat that was formerly held by retiring Democrat Charles Colgan.

Another Democratic Senate seat recently went up for grabs when Donald Caldwell, the former head of the Roanoke Democrats announced just before the deadline that he would be running as an independent against incumbent Democratic Senator John Edward down in Roanoke for the 21st Senate seat.

Caldwell’s entry into the campaign could potentially split the Democratic vote, sending a Republican to the Senate who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance in this election.

Another possible pick up is 10th Senate seat which is located in Powhatan and Chesterfield counties, along with part of the city of Richmond, a seat which is now vacant due to Republican’s John Watkins retiring. The state party along with the Governor are actively supporting the Democratic winner of this primary, and it a district where the Republican replacement is relatively unknown.

The odds drop considerably for the remaining contested Senate races. Like the 12th Senate seat held formerly held for decades by the retiring Republican Senator Walter Stosch. This district is staunch Republican territory consisting of part of Henrico County and the tea party dominated Hanover County.

So despite having Democrat E. Wayne Powell, who ran against Eric Cantor for Congress in 2012 running for this seat against the survivor of a 4 way Republican primary, this will be a very difficult district for any Democrat to win.

Here in our neck of the woods, there is the 17th Senate seat currently held by Republican Bryce Reeves. This district includes most of Louisa County, and parts of Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Albemarle, counties, along with all of Orange Country and the city of Fredericksburg.

Like the 12th district race, it is expected that the State Republican Party will be spending heavily to maintain their control of the Senate. And it is not know at this time what if any support from the Democratic State Party Ned Galloway can expect.  It is anticipated that one of these two races will be the Democrats best chances for picking up that second Senate seat.

Meanwhile over in the House, the odds of keeping the Republicans from retaining their 67 seat super majority are even slimmer. Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Time Dispatch recently pointed out that a decade’s long legacy of gerrymandered districts by both parties has “…contributed to gridlock in the General Assembly by thwarting competition.”

In this years election, 77 out of 100 House of Delegate elections will be uncontested by one side or another, with the Republicans enjoying a whopping 23 uncontested seat margin, nor is the news much better when it comes to unseating incumbents in contested races.

Since 2003, there have been 600 elections for House seats — and only 19 incumbents were defeated, roughly a 3% turnover rate. http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/jeff-schapiro/article_784cffac-a447-53c0-afba-e97ecb83aa5d.html

With the exception of a handful of extremists from the Northern Virginia region like “Sideshow” Bob Marshall in the 13th or David Ramadan in the 87th, there are few opportunities for any Democratic gains in the House.

As with any election, who shows up on election day ultimately determines the winner, and judging from this graph below we can reasonably expect a turnout somewhere between the 2011 and 2015 numbers.

2105 primary turn out

There are several things that the citizens of Virginia, particularly Democrats need to carefully consider about this coming election, and why it is so important for them to turn out at the polls in far greater numbers than they have in recent elections.

Should Democrats fail to retake the Senate and Virginia ends up with a Republican controlled General Assembly for the next two years it’s very likely that in the frenzied run up to the 2016 presidential election they will do everything in their power to ensure their Party’s ability to deliver Virginia to their candidate.

Based on their legislative actions of the past 6 years and counting, only a fool believes that they won’t use any means necessary to turn Virginia from a purple state into a red one, changing demographics and electorate be damned. http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/virginias-gop-is-facing-a-demographic-nightmare/2015/06/09

Especially if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2016, it’s almost a given that they will abuse their control of both legislative bodies and double down on their attempts to take back the Governors office in 2017.

Make no mistake; the Republicans are a party ruled by extremism.

And should they gain control of all thee branches of government in 2017, they will pass the kinds of laws we have seen enacted in states like North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Kansas.

So if you’re tired of seeing an ineffective corporate dominated General Assembly, filled with the same cast of “usual suspects,” this year’s election will likely be your last opportunity for the next decade or so to change that.

While no one can predict the future, whichever party controls the Senate in 2019 will have a significant say in how the states electoral boundaries are drawn up for the 2020 redistricting. More importantly, a divided General Assembly represents an important first step in breaking a decade’s long cycle of uncompetitive races, particularly in the House of Delegates where one party has gerrymandered themselves into a permanent majority.

Jon Taylor