CURVEBALL: Republicans Applaud Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Pitch
In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama continued to push for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade agreement that would stretch from Australia to Asia to the Americas, encompass 40 percent of the world’s economic activity and, supporters say, remake global trade.
“As we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen?” Obama said. “We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are also fair. It’s the right thing to do.”
But the TPP has another amazing property: the ability to turn the nation’s capital into Bizarro World, D.C. where up is down, right is left and left is pretty cranky.
You see, Congressional Republicans didn’t find much in the President’s speech to applaud—except when he mentioned that he would never run for President again—but they were effusive in their praise for his TPP support. Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, said that the trade talk was “probably one of the brightest spots” and “the most promising part.”
Democrats? Not so much. Wednesday morning a group of House and Senate Democrats declared the TPP a “race to the bottom.” One of the members of that group, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a defacto Democrat, is on record calling the TPP “disastrous … designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of … the foundations of American democracy.”
If this all feels vaguely familiar, go back a little more than 20 years when a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, was attempting to push a controversial trade agreement through Congress and getting tremendous pushback from his own party. In the end, of course, the North American Free Trade Agreement passed with 75 percent of Republicans voting for it; and just 41 percent of Democrats.
Considering that, the White House may be hoping the TPP also has the properties of a time machine.