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Unfortunately, I’ve got bad news to pass on. The House of Representatives just voted to give President Obama sweeping new authority to negotiate the same kinds of trade agreements that have shafted America’s middle class and gutted the productive part of our nation’s economy. Since the Senate has already passed a similar measure, the House action would appear to make this “fast track” bill law before too long.

The Congressional politics of this issue remain so complicated – as evinced by fast track’s seeming demise last Friday – that the measure could yet ultimately fail. Also, although its passage today greatly increases the odds of eventual Congressional approval of Mr. Obama’s fatally flawed Pacific Rim trade deal (which is still being negotiated internationally), supporters still can’t take for granted its fate on Capitol Hill. Nonetheless, even given these remaining uncertainties, this was a bad day for America, and the rest of the world, too – especially since, as I’ve written repeatedly, current U.S. trade strategy played a key role in triggering the last financial crisis, and threatens to bring about a replay.

I haven’t seen the official tally, so I’m somewhat constrained in commenting, but we do know that 28 House Democrats voted for this misbegotten legislation, and 50 House Republicans defied their leadership and voted against it. At the same time, however, these raw vote figures can be a little misleading, since lawmakers sometimes “twin” their votes once the final result comes within sight (i.e., making sure that their decision is offset by a vote from their opponents’ ranks, to get themselves on record in a politically advantageous way without affecting the final numbers on net).

But 28 Democrats supporting a dangerously shortsighted measure that can only benefit offshoring multinational companies at the expense of the economy as a whole is disgraceful. As per my previous post, that’s about the number of political scalps organized labor will need to take in the upcoming 2016 presidential elections if it’s to maintain is credibility in Washington. Meanwhile, 50 House Republicans opposing fast track is an impressive figure, with possibly damaging implications for that Pacific Rim agreement (called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP).

Of course, I’ll be examining the vote in greater detail once I get the necessary information, and will continue to follow trade policy as closely as ever. Stay tuned!

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