Top Democrat Denied Access To Trade Deals

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Note: The debate for Fast Track trade authority is at a critical moment. Rumors are swirling that when Congress returns from its presidential week recess that bills will be introduced. There are still negotiations between Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the ranking member of the Finance Committee on language for a Fast Track bill. Sen. Wyden has consistently called for transparency and congressional participation as part of a Fast Track bill. How can he agree to any Fast Track when members of Congress are treated like Rep. Lloyd Doggett is below. He is denied any meaningful access to the trade agreements. How can Congress participate in the process when three trade agreements have been under negotiation for years and are nearing completion? Either Wyden is not serious in his demands or he will not agree to Fast Track for any of these agreements.

Take Action: Contact Wyden and tell him “no Fast Track.” And, Contact your member of Congress and ask them to pledge they will not support any Fast Track for these agreements. Sign-up to be part of our Rapid Response Team to stop Fast Track trade authority.

Democrat Lloyd Doggett Says Obama Administration Dodging Request To Read Trade Deals Without Restrictions

WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman has accused the Obama administration of dodging his request for “unimpeded” access to two controversial trade agreements — reigniting a dispute over transparency as the president presses legislators for so-called “fast-track” authority, which would block members of Congress from offering amendments to either deal.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, wants to view an unredacted copy of the proposed text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP). He wants to bring his chief of staff, who has a top security clearance, and he wants to be able to take notes privately. He also wants to review documents that show the position of each country participating in the agreements, as well how the U.S. position has changed over the course of the negotiations.

In a letter this week, Doggett accused Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), of avoiding his requests since January. “USTR has provided no legal justification for denying such Member and staff review,” wrote Doggett.

The text of TPP is treated as a state secret — to a degree. Access to TPP texts is limited to members of Congress and staffers on the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee who have an official security clearance. Hundreds of corporate lobbyists and executives are also given access, along with dozens of representatives of labor unions, nonprofits and other consumer groups.

But exactly which congressional offices can see the texts has become a point of frequent contention between the White House and members of the legislative branch — particularly Obama’s fellow Democrats.

Most Republicans have promised to grant the president fast-track authority, but free-trade skeptics — including most Democrats and some House Republicans — are hoping to vote down such a measure. The limited transparency surrounding TPP has been a persistent concern, especially among Democrats, after a 2014 meeting in which some Democrats say Froman privately walked back a public promise to secure strong, enforceable environmental standards in the deal. Liberal lawmakers and organizations are also concerned about the pact’s ability to undermine labor rights and other important regulations.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, reiterated to The Huffington Post that all members of Congress are provided access to the classified TPP negotiating texts and U.S. proposals.

“We have been in touch with Congressman Doggett’s office regarding his request to review negotiating texts, but we have not yet been provided a time when he is available,” said Bates.

Leslie Tisdale, a spokeswoman for Doggett, confirmed that the congressman’s office received a call after they sent the letter to Froman. She said USTR “has said ‘when do you want to come in for the review’ — but it’s not a meaningful review.” She added that the Congressman “can’t take notes, it’s not private [and] all of these things we outlined in the letter are still not addressed.”

Doggett told HuffPost on Friday that he is not seeking special access, only “the access that all Members should have in order to exercise proper congressional oversight.”

Some Democrats have said they are satisfied with the current state of review. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), who co-chairs the corporate-friendly New Democrat Coalition, told USTR at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing that “we do appreciate the access to text and being able to walk through with your team specific questions or concerns that we have.”

Other lawmakers have shown less enthusiasm.

“There has been some progress on transparency, but more must happen,” Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement last month.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who has viewed the text of TPP, told HuffPost that he found the process beyond burdensome.

“They created ground rules that are farcical,” he said, claiming that he couldn’t have staff in the room, couldn’t go home with the documents, couldn’t take notes of the documents, couldn’t discuss the contents with staff, constituents in the media or other members of Congress outside of a classified facility, and had to be watched while he was reading.

“I said after reading the documents, ‘It’s a punch in the face to the American middle class, but I can’t tell you why,'” he added.

  • DAnnaS

    Great. Our ‘leaders’ will be voting on a bill they are not allowed to see or read. It is time to lock these pretenders out of Washington. They are a disgrace to the citizens of this country, and enemies of the whole world.

  • Secret laws and secret negotiations where even the the lawmakers that we elect have very limited access to the documents. Fast track, which is an up or down vote with limited debate, is a slap in the face to how democracy is supposed to work in this country. It’s time to drop the facade and just burn down the House of Representatives already.

  • Jon

    How about a campaign to encourage all Congresspeople who have truly been insulted by this lopsided procedure, to emphatically say they will vote NO! If they have any ego (LOL) they need to be indignant to the extent it overrides corporate campaign contributions. Put them on the spot, asking if they are so eager to curry favor with corporations that they have to accept this profound insult meekly!

  • PETER CHILDS

    How much more will we put up with before we realize that our democracy has been almost completely trashed (along with our environment, our economy, and almost every other aspect of public life) by an oligarchy of corporados who can perceive no higher value in life than the accumulation of money?

    It’s up to us to deal with this situation. It will not be done by those who we like to think will do it for us; our elected “representatives” who, with a few notable exceptions like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, are clearly incapable of fixing anything. On the contrary (and incredibly) they are busily making everything worse, and that at a time when our most serious and capable observers are warning us that without immediate and truly effective action climate change alone (let alone our several other imminent crises) may soon actually threaten life as we know it on this planet.

    We’d better wake up, folks, and figure out how to take action. As the Talking Heads observed some time ago, “This ain’t no disco; this ain’t no party; this ain’t no foolin’ around!”

    I hasten to add that I know we can do this and I believe we will, but we’re going to have to raise our sights much higher. I explore the matter a bit in “Of Thee I Sing; The American Experiment and How It Can Still Succeed” (generally available, e.g. Amazon).

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    Only after they have prepared a Bill of Impeachment for corporate puppet President Barf, What do we do then, if we convict him for his traitorous activities in the Senate. Use him to bomb Yemen?

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    Our leaders will be voting on the wrong bill. They should be voting on a Bill of Impeachment for the unprinicpled President Barf.

  • DAnnaS

    I get it. You hate Obama. Going after one man will NOT change the corrupt system perpetuated by both sleezy parties and their corporate warmongering owners.
    Thanks for trying to play in the big world.

  • kevinzeese

    Our opposition to corporate trade agreements would be the same be no matter who advocated for them. President Obama campaigned for office against NAFTA, now he is pushing a trade agreement that is NAFTA on steroids. President Obama says he wants to shrink the wealth divide and strengthen workers in America, the TPP and other agreements will expand the wealth divide, lose jobs and lower wages. The president says he is concerned about climate change, but these agreements will increase the use of carbon and methane fuels.

    It is not Obama we are concerned with,it is the issue.

    We are not part of either party in Popular Resistance we advocate for positions and work with whoever agrees with us. For example, Obama came to agree with us on net neutrality, so on that issue we are on the same side.

  • DAnnaS

    We need to seperate each bill into a single pieces of legislation. No more voting for a package deal. Make the congress critters defend every single vote on every issue. Then we won’t be able to whine about ‘having’ to vote for such and such in order to ‘get’ this or that.
    If those who claim to be on the side of the people fillabuster for neat bills, this could be a step in the right direction.

  • DAnnaS

    We? I was replying to TecumsehUnfaced on the second simplistic ‘one person is the problem’ comment made in an 8 comment thread.
    Got it?

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    Thanks for the silly insults generated by your love for a failure of a president. Maybe if we impeached more corrupt, moral failures like him, such as the Shrub,we wouldn’t have to deal with so many of them, or people like you stupidly assuming that others are even more simple than yourself.

  • DAnnaS

    Reading comprehension is not your strong suit. I expressed no support nor love. I pointed out there is are big issues and the childish blaming of one person is useless.
    Nice try. GOT IT?

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    Are you trying to demonstrate that you have no strong suit or sense of reality other than brainless insults on hallucinatory assumptions? Congratulations! For once in in your little life you are succeeding.

    Awaiting to be amused by your next childish spew…

    Or you could grow up.

    P.S. Penny Pritzker loves people with your donkey attitudes.

  • DAnnaS

    Deluded or dulaudid? I am amused by a battle if witts with an unthinking individual, but enough is enough. Run along now…

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    No sign of any wit in you yet. Keep trying, child.

  • Dawn Wolfson

    My Congressman is having a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday. Having already received an e-mail from him extolling the virtues of trade agreements and lower priced goods, I don’t expect much. But I do intend to ask him why he would willingly give up Congress’s right to regulate commerce by voting for fast track. Usually he’s so all about upholding the letter of the Constitution…