The U.S. Senate advanced the Fast Track bill today May 14) in a rushed vote following a slew of concessions made to swing Democrats who had voted to block it earlier this week. The setback on Tuesday could have forced proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and other secretive, anti-user trade agreements to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new bill. Unfortunately, Senate leaders were able to get around this impasse within 48 hours by agreeing to let Democrats vote on some other trade-enforcement measures first before holding the vote on Fast Track.
Now the Senate will go on to debate and vote on the bill, likely within the coming week—essentially putting this legislation on its own fast track to congressional approval. We have little confidence that the Senate would improve the bill enough to ever remedy the nontransparent, corporate-dominated process of trade negotiations. This is why we need to turn our attention to representatives.
There is a better chance that Fast Track can be stopped in the House, where proportionally more lawmakers have expressed their opposition to the bill than in the Senate. But much of the representatives’ resistance is based on labor, environment, and currency manipulation concerns, and not on the provisions that would impact users’ rights. The White House and other proponents of TPP may be willing to make some weak compromises on those non-tech issues, but they will likely do nothing to address the restrictive digital regulations that will come with these trade deals, nor even fix the secrecy that have led to these bad terms.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi remains one of our main targets of action. As Minority Leader, she needs to come out strong against the secrecy of trade negotiations and call on others in the House to follow her lead. And as the member of Congress representing San Francisco (which itself voted to come out against Fast Track), she needs to defend the rights of users and Internet-based companies against the extreme copyright and trade secrets provisions in the TPP. She continues to stop short of coming out against Fast Track entirely, so it’s time for her to step up and lead this campaign in the House and speak out against these undemocratic, anti-user deals.
President Obama and the U.S. Trade Representative have been spreading complete lies about Fast Track and the TPP, even going so far as to say that the TPP isn’t secret and that critics are a bunch of misguided liberals who “don’t know what what they’re talking about.” But our concerns are not about being left or right of the political aisle—we’re defending our right to free speech, access to knowledge, and privacy online. Congress needs to address these real threats with the TPP, and that will only happen if we make a huge amount of noise.
These next few weeks are crucial. Here are the actions you can take:
- Use this tool to email and call your representatives and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family.
- Call your lawmakers and organize a meeting over the congressional recess, which is coming up right after Memorial Day weekend in two weeks.
- Tweet at key representatives and call on them to come out against Fast Track.