Saturday, May 23, 2015

ObamaTrade bill clears Senate hurdle, moves to House

A late Friday vote in the Senate gave President Obama a hard won victory in advancing “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority in his administrations efforts to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement (TTIP). The bill will now face a very difficult battle in the House of Representatives, where opponents of the bill–including staunchly Conservative Republicans and most Democrats–will be fighting to scupper Fast Track as a first step in killing both trade pacts altogether.

“This is an important bill, likely the most important bill we will pass this year. It’s important to President Obama,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and primary author of the bill, said at the close of debate.

On the final roll call, five Republicans joined 32 Democrats in opposing TPA — an odd collection that ranged from Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and his top two lieutenants to staunch conservatives such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “Congress is forgetting its duty: to improve jobs and wages for Americans,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), one of the most conservative senators, said in a statement.

An interesting point to note: 55 members of the House of Representatives were in the House of Representatives in 1993 when NAFTA was debated. Yes, ~8% of the House have been in power for 22 years or longer.

In response to the passage of the Fast Track bill Senator Sessions released a lengthy statement via his website blasting the TPP:

I asked the President how his fast-tracked proposals would impact jobs, wages, and trade deficits. He would not answer. The bill’s promoters also refused to answer when asked whether their proposal would reduce net manufacturing jobs in the United States. That is because they know it will. Like the South Korean trade deal—which doubled our trade deficit after promises of a trade renaissance—this proposal will widen further our trade deficits and eliminate jobs.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership opens our markets to foreign imports, but allows foreign countries to continue closing their market to ours.

Our country has not been engaged in reciprocal free trade but, as the Chairman Emeritus of Nucor Steel explained, “the enablement of foreign mercantilism” and “unilateral trade disarmament.” We have allowed state-dominated and mercantilist trading partners to maintain their varied and elaborate non-tariff barriers, exporting their unemployment to our shores.

Stubbornly, our political elites have treated trade as a matter of religion. To them, there is no such thing as a bad deal. They know American workers lose jobs when we allow trading partners to cheat. But they insist it is all for the greater good. This is why the American worker keeps ending up on the losing end.

In addition to Sessions, only four other Senate Republicans voted against the Fast Track Bill: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). It is worth noting that the textile and steel industries of the state of Alabama were some of the most savaged by NAFTA and the state economy only began to recover in recent years due to the influx of Automotive and Aerospace manufacturing.

Friday morning conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, when pressed as to which 2016 Presidential hopefuls she supported, declined to endorse any but said: “I wish that Sen. Jeff Sessions would run for president, because I would sign up in a heartbeat.”

Is it time to start a “Draft Sessions” and #RunSessionsRun campaign?

[Washington Post][][Breitbart]

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Congress, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Harry Reid, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch, rand paul, Republican Senators, Richard Shelby, Susan Collins, Trans-Pacific Partnership, U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement

Senators fight for Amtrak funding

On Thursday, senators from states along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor urged the Senate Appropriations committee to approve the $2 billion funding to the rail service as part of the fiscal 2016 Transportation Spending Bill in order to increase safety regulations and equipment for the service. These pleas are partly in reaction to last week’s derailment of a Northeast Regional passenger train in Philadelphia that led to the deaths of eight people and injured 200, as stated in USA Today.

According to Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, the derailment could have been avoided entirely if accident-avoidance equipment called “positive train controls” (PTC) were in place on that section of the track. However, this type of safety equipment is expensive, and due to lack of funding it was not in place, leading the train to enter the curve at more than twice the 50 mph speed limit and derail. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) believes that not giving Amtrak the appropriate funding means forcing them to “choose between safety options such as PTC equipment and bridge repair.”

However, the odds aren’t looking in Amtrak’s favor. Last week, a vote in the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved a $251 million cut for Amtrak to $1.14 billion, which was heavily criticized by Democratic senators.

“I think what we have here is a Republican roadblock toward the greater economic future,” Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), said on Thursday. “We have a Republican roadblock towards greater safety in our transportation system and we have a Republican roadblock towards a better quality of life.”

After the incident, Congress set a deadline of December 31, 2015 for all railroads to install PTC technology, but most commuter and freight trains do not have the funding or resources to meet that deadline. In the meantime, congress will soon vote on a house-approved bill that would extend the Highway Trust Fund till the end of July without any new revenue. This trust fund contributes to funding commuter trains, however advocates of a more long term extension of the fund with new revenue argue that more funding is necessary to address crumbling bridges and roads, as well as rail improvements.

While the funding fight continues, Amtrak has already put into place an emergency order issued by the Federal Railroad Administration requiring Amtrak to use existing “automatic train controls” to restrict trains to 50 mph as they approach the curve where the derailment occurred last week.

[USA Today]

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Congress, US, Amtrak

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Republicans Aim, Shoot Selves in '16 Foots

With each passing day more and more Republicans enter the 2016 presidential election with hopes of reaching the White House, but what they are really doing is hurting the GOP's chances of reclaiming the presidency by unnecessarily dividing the base and their resources. 

Although Conservatives have decried the "next in line" attitude that the Republican Party tends to follow in national elections, its common sense cannot be disputed from a financial or political standpoint. 

Sure, it doesn't allow for a substantial debate on the ideas and ideals of ideology in the primaries, but must we hash these thoughts out every four years? Will the grand old party slip perilously close to the abyss if we don't fight for the right to succeed Ronald Reagan's legacy? 

Newsflash: Reagan is dead. The eighties are gone. Republicans don't need twenty candidates. 

Not only is it not making the party stronger, because millions of voters are being fractured across too many factions to count, but it is setting a political nuclear race into effect, which once started, will end up depleting primary coffers in a useless display of self-destruction. 

What do I mean by self-destruction? Let us be serious for a moment - Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker are the only three candidates with a shot of securing the nomination. The rest are simply sucking the money and oxygen away from those with an actual chance. 

If that's not self-inflicted harm against one's own party, I don't know what is. 

Even worse are the lines that candidates are drawing: Cruz is the "true conservative," Paul is the "true defender of liberty," Fiorina is the "true outsider," Bush is the "nominee inherent," Huckabee is the true "social conservative," and so on and so forth. 

By drawing these lines they are creating a situation where their bases think only their candidate is the one that can lead or save the Republican Party, and that anyone else is simply inferior and, dangerous to the party's overall odds, "unsupportable" in the general election. 

All of this combined is why the GOP stands a decent chance of throwing the 2016 presidential election away, unless they eliminate the fringe candidates and hold a substantive debate between the three strongest candidates, which would allow them to only grow stronger.

Alas, this is the Republican Party we speak of, however, and they are not known for their intelligence.