Hall of Shame: 13 Democrats Who Voted to End Debate on Fast-Track Trade Legislation

Fast-track trade legislation is the first step in the process of greasing the skids for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and any other trade deal proposed by this president or any other for the next six years. Last month, the 13 democrats listed in the table below voted to end debate on fast track (Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA), allowing a final vote to take place. There are strong arguments against the TPP, which will increase inequality and hurt the middle class.

Table 1

Trade and jobs gained and lost in selected states

Net U.S. jobs displaced due to goods trade with China, 2001–2013 Net U.S. jobs created by eliminating currency manipulation
Low-impact scenario* High-impact scenario*
Senator State State employment (in 2011) Jobs lost Jobs lost as a share of employment Jobs gained Jobs gained as a share of employment Jobs gained Jobs gained as a share of employment
Feinstein, Dianne California 16,426,700 564,200 3.4% 258,400 1.6% 687,100 4.2%
Bennet, Michael Colorado 2,492,400 59,400 2.4% 38,300 1.5% 95,700 3.8%
Carper, Tom Delaware 420,400 5,500 1.3% 6,700 1.6% 16,200 3.9%
Coons, Chris
Nelson, Bill Florida 8,101,900 115,700 1.4% 110,200 1.4% 274,000 3.4%
McCaskill, Claire Missouri 2,742,100 44,200 1.6% 47,200 1.7% 116,800 4.3%
Shaheen, Jeanne New Hampshire 684,800 22,700 3.3% 12,700 1.9% 31,300 4.6%
Heitkamp, Heidi North Dakota 370,800 2,400 0.6% 7,400 2.0% 17,000 4.6%
Wyden, Ron Oregon 1,710,300 62,700 3.7% 31,300 1.8% 78,600 4.6%
Kaine, Tim Virginia 3,860,100 63,500 1.6% 52,500 1.4% 131,300 3.4%
Warner, Mark
Cantwell, Maria Washington 3,118,000 55,900 1.8% 61,300 2.0% 140,300 4.5%
Murray, Pat
Total jobs at risk in these states** 39,927,500 996,200 2.5% 626,000 1.6% 1,588,300 4.0%

* The low-impact scenario assumes ending currency manipulation would reduce the trade deficit by $200 billion; the high-impact scenario assumes a $500 billion reduction in the trade deficit. The table shows the hypothetical change in 2015 three years after implementation.

** Employment and job numbers represent aggregates. Percentages represent weighted averages. States that appear twice (Delaware, Virginia, and Washington) are only counted once.

Source: Author's analysis of Scott 2014a and Scott 2014b

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These 13 democrats come from 10 states that lost 996,200 jobs due to growing trade deficits with China between 2001 and 2013, nearly one-third of the 3.2 million jobs eliminated by China trade in the United States in that period. States like Oregon, California, and Colorado were among the hardest hit states in the country. But they are also home or host to Nike (Oregon), Lockheed-Martin (Colorado), and Apple, Google, Intel and other Goliaths of Silicon Valley (California). New Hampshire serve as a bedroom community for many electronics industry workers in nearby Massachusetts, and has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in recent decades in textiles, shoemaking and small machine making.

These states could gain between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs if currency manipulation by China and about twenty other countries were eliminated, as shown in the tables. Nationwide, between 2.3 and 5.8 million jobs could be created in this way.

Tradeoffs are always a part of politics and the legislative process. Balancing the interests of voters versus donors—the art of finding the best possible deal in any given situation—is how politics has worked throughout history. But now we have pure politics—all the tradeoffs are gone and it is time for a decision.

The fast-track bill approved by Congress in May included measures to tighten up on currency manipulation extended special trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for displaced workers, and included requirements that trade deals improve prospects for reducing pollution and climate change, along with the enforcement of fair trade rules

The bill that the Senate must vote on tomorrow contains none of these sweeteners. No TAA. The currency measure has been stripped out, along with other democratic priorities, including the Trade Enforcement Act. Democrats are being asked to approve this bill, which is a substantial step backwards, on the basis of a promise from Speaker of the House John Boehner that he will find the votes to pass TAA and a few other Democratic priorities (but again, with poison pills on currency, climate change, and immigration), but only after they vote for this worst-of-all-possible-fast-track bills.

Nationwide, nearly 1 million jobs have been lost due to unfair trade with China alone. The TPP proposes an expansion of unfair trade with nearly a dozen other countries in Asia. The measures proposed would prohibit action on currency that could create between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs in these top-ten worst-hit states alone. With no guarantees on any Democratic priority, why would any senator from these states vote to end debate on this fatally flawed bill?

Ask yourself, in this situation, would you trust House Speaker John Boehner with your vote? With your money? With your job?