A customs package that would allow the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement to go to a straight up-and-down vote in Congress failed to pass the House on Friday. Before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) lectured her colleagues on the importance of climate change and how it relates to the trade agreement.
“You cannot separate commerce and environment,” Pelosi said on the House floor before the vote.
Environmental groups had already opposed the TPP, because under the agreement, corporations will likely be able to sue governments that interfere with their business — even if the interference comes from enforcement of carbon reduction goals and passing environmental legislation. But earlier this week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) doubled down on the environmental component of the TPP, introducing an amendment to the customs package that would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.”
The move was widely seen as an attempt to appease right-wing members of the House. But environmental activists, including Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for 350.org, warned that the move could alienate Democrats worried about climate change. It appears he was correct.
Pelosi specifically addressed the Ryan amendment in her speech on the House floor, noting that passage of the bill would mean the U.S. Trade Representative was barred from negotiating on climate change.
“I hold myself second-to-none in this body in protecting the environment and recognizing the challenges of the climate crisis,” Pelosi said.
In order to slow down the fast track process, House Democrats voted against a bill offering assistance to American workers whose jobs were displaced under the TPP. That bill, the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA), had been pushed by Democrats, including Pelosi, and was seen as an attempt to get Democrats on board with the trade agreement. It was paired with the fast-track legislation.
“If TAA slows down the fast track, than I am prepared to vote against it,” Pelosi said. And vote against it she did.
Since one part failed, the entire package — which has already passed the Senate — is delayed. The House has until Tuesday to pass TAA, or the fast-track option will die.
“Today’s votes to stall fast-track and TPP are a major win for anyone who cares about climate change,” 350.org’s Ganapathy said in a statement. “Today was a big win, but the thousands of climate activists across the country who stood up and linked arms with fellow progressives to get us here won’t rest until fast-track and TPP are dead for good.”