Lipinski Opposes 'Fast Track' Bill That He Says Will Cut U.S. Jobs
DesPlaines Valley News
Editor's Note: The House narrowly approved 219-211 the "fast track" bill on Friday, but effectively blocked it by defeating a companion bill 126-302 that would have provide aid to workers affected by the trade bill. The House is expected to vote on the aid measure again on Tuesday.
President Obama has received no support from local Democratic congressmen for his Trade Promotion Authority bill, known as Fast Track Authority, which he was hoping the U.S. House would pass soon, perhaps even this week.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is among the most vocal opponents of the bill, which the Senate passed on May 22 by a vote of 62-37.
Because of Lipinski and more than 120 other Democrats in the House who have come out against it, winning passage in the House is expected to be considerably harder and will require a lot of Republican support.
Rep. Michael Quigley (D-5th) is the only Chicago-area Democrat supporting the measure, which would give the administration final authority on any trade agreement signed. Congress would only be able to vote up or down on any agreement negotiated, without making any amendments.
Obama has said it would allow him to negotiate more favorable treaties for the United States, if other countries could be assured that there would be no changes made after the negotiations were completed.
"I am definitely opposing it,” said Lipinski recently. "I think Congress should not give up its authority to amend any trade agreement.”
"Congress will not be able to amend agreements and should not be giving up so much power to the president,” he continued, noting that if the fast-track legislation is passed, it would be in place for three to six years, well into the next administration.
"Some people see this as a union issue, but it is more than that. The unions are strongly opposed to it, but so are most manufacturers in Bedford Park, Bridgeview and elsewhere in the 3rd District,” said Lipinski.
He said representatives of Taubensee Steel & Wire Co., which has a location in Bridgeview, were in Washington in April to voice their opposition to Fast Track. Bill Hickey, the CEO of Lapham-Hickey Steel in Bedford Park, has also spoken out against the legislation, according to Lipinski.
"Going back to NAFTA, look how damaging that was to many manufacturers here,” he said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement finalized by President Bill Clinton. He pointed out that "fast track” was used for NAFTA, too. Lipinski’s father, former Rep. Bill Lipinski, opposed that treaty, which went into effect in 1994. It is blamed for many U.S. job losses caused by the removal of trade tariffs between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The congressman said the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement, signed in 2010, also harmed U.S. manufacturing. "We were promised that would create 70,000 jobs, but 60,000 jobs have been lost since then,” he said. "Slightly more U.S. exports go to South Korea now, but we are getting more imports.”
Lipinski said Obama wants the fast-track legislation to be approved soon, to enable him to conclude negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a treaty with 11 other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.
Obama has lobbied many congressmen, asking them to vote in favor of the bill. But Lipinski said he was not among those called.
"Probably because I came out against it so early, he knew I wasn’t going to change my mind,” said Lipinski. In fact, the president and congressman have not spoken to each other in years, dating back to Obama’s failed attempt to get Lipinski to vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
The president has promised that he will keep Congress informed and up-to-date about the progress of all treaty negotiations, but Lipinski said that is not enough.
He said the TPP negotiations are nearly complete, and as a congressman, he has been allowed to see the documents already been drawn up. However, he is not allowed to take notes on what he has seen, and no smartphones or cameras are allowed in the top-secret room.
"I think the administration should be willing to show the American people what is being negotiated before it is finalized,” he said.