Re-elect Dan Lipinski Congressman

Fast-track trade proposal draws fire from local Democrats despite Obama backing

01/15/2014

Crain's Chicago Business
 
They occupy different ideological corners of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House. But one issue lately has united Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a liberal from Evanston, and her considerably more conservative Chicago colleague, Southwest Sider Dan Lipinski.
 
The cause is killing proposed "fast-track" trade authority in Congress, something the local man who is president now, Barack Obama, badly would like to have.
 
Under pending legislation introduced earlier this month by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Mr. Obama would be able to win approval of negotiated trade deals on an expedited basis, putting them to a single up-or-down vote in Congress without amendments. If it is approved, a proposed Asian trade pact is likely to be submitted soon.
 
Big exporters, many of them Illinois-based, strongly favor the bill, asserting that it's good both for their bottom lines and the domestic economy.
 
But the critique behind "that giant sucking sound," as Ross Perot once categorized Nafta, still lives.
 
'THE HISTORY . . . HAS BEEN GRIM'
 
Ms. Schakowsky came out with a statement a few days ago, saying fast-track “keeps Congress and the American people out of an open and transparent debate.”
 
Indeed, she said, “the history of trade agreements has been grim. Americans do not benefit from trade agreements that encourage corporations to ship jobs overseas, undermine labor and human rights standards, degrade the environment or put the interests of pharmaceutical companies ahead of the needs of health care consumers.”
 
Proponents would respond that fast-track merely requires congressmen to focus on the overall good, rather than debate scores of amendments in which each fights for the factory that happens to be located in his or her district. But I digress.
 
Says Mr. Lipinski in a statement released yesterday: Fast-track “would be a terrible mistake. . . .(Past) promises of more and better jobs have not only gone unfilled, (but) once the negotiated trade pacts were implemented we have seen larger trade deficits and a declining standard of living for middle-class Americans.” Much of organized labor agrees with him.
 
'CONGRESS HAS A RESPONSIBILITY'
 
He concludes, “Congress has a responsibility to the American people to be fully informed about trade agreements the administration is negotiating, to take time to carefully study concluded agreements and to make necessary changes. . . .Only then can we be certain that the interests of American workers are being served and not just American business interests.”
 
Would either lawmaker have a different view if, say Caterpillar, Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland or Abbott Labs — to name only a few big Illinois exporters that benefit from trade deals — were in their districts and employed many of their constituents? I wouldn't be surprised if lots of workers in Japan or Europe have their noses out of joint after losing aircraft deals to Boeing or machinery contracts to Caterpillar.
 
But all politics is local. As Chicago's Mike Quigley, a Democrat who backs fast-track, put it the other day, "It's tough being in the middle in this Congress . . . (But) this is important for Chicago and Illinois. We can't live in isolation."
 
No, we can't. But it looks like Mr. Obama will need lots of help on the Republican side of the aisle to pass this one.
01/15/2014
Crain's Chicago Business
 
They occupy different ideological corners of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House. But one issue lately has united Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a liberal from Evanston, and her considerably more conservative Chicago colleague, Southwest Sider Dan Lipinski.
 
The cause is killing proposed "fast-track" trade authority in Congress, something the local man who is president now, Barack Obama, badly would like to have.
 
Under pending legislation introduced earlier this month by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Mr. Obama would be able to win approval of negotiated trade deals on an expedited basis, putting them to a single up-or-down vote in Congress without amendments. If it is approved, a proposed Asian trade pact is likely to be submitted soon.
 
Big exporters, many of them Illinois-based, strongly favor the bill, asserting that it's good both for their bottom lines and the domestic economy.
 
But the critique behind "that giant sucking sound," as Ross Perot once categorized Nafta, still lives.
 
'THE HISTORY . . . HAS BEEN GRIM'
 
Ms. Schakowsky came out with a statement a few days ago, saying fast-track “keeps Congress and the American people out of an open and transparent debate.”
 
Indeed, she said, “the history of trade agreements has been grim. Americans do not benefit from trade agreements that encourage corporations to ship jobs overseas, undermine labor and human rights standards, degrade the environment or put the interests of pharmaceutical companies ahead of the needs of health care consumers.”
 
Proponents would respond that fast-track merely requires congressmen to focus on the overall good, rather than debate scores of amendments in which each fights for the factory that happens to be located in his or her district. But I digress.
 
Says Mr. Lipinski in a statement released yesterday: Fast-track “would be a terrible mistake. . . .(Past) promises of more and better jobs have not only gone unfilled, (but) once the negotiated trade pacts were implemented we have seen larger trade deficits and a declining standard of living for middle-class Americans.” Much of organized labor agrees with him.
 
'CONGRESS HAS A RESPONSIBILITY'
 
He concludes, “Congress has a responsibility to the American people to be fully informed about trade agreements the administration is negotiating, to take time to carefully study concluded agreements and to make necessary changes. . . .Only then can we be certain that the interests of American workers are being served and not just American business interests.”
 
Would either lawmaker have a different view if, say Caterpillar, Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland or Abbott Labs — to name only a few big Illinois exporters that benefit from trade deals — were in their districts and employed many of their constituents? I wouldn't be surprised if lots of workers in Japan or Europe have their noses out of joint after losing aircraft deals to Boeing or machinery contracts to Caterpillar.
 
But all politics is local. As Chicago's Mike Quigley, a Democrat who backs fast-track, put it the other day, "It's tough being in the middle in this Congress . . . (But) this is important for Chicago and Illinois. We can't live in isolation."
 
No, we can't. But it looks like Mr. Obama will need lots of help on the Republican side of the aisle to pass this one.

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