Lame-duck TPP vote could be disastrous for Dems


There’s one hot-button issue in this campaign that exemplifies what people see as wrong with the system: The Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Negotiated in secret under the advisement of multinational corporations, the TPP gives handouts to the multinational corporate class at the expense of the middle class. It pits workers here against those abroad, boosting profits of multinational corporations while our workers see downward pressure on wages. It allows fossil fuel corporations to sue governments in private tribunals to overturn policies that protect our families and our environment. It gives the pharmaceutical industry monopoly protections while consumers endure skyrocketing prices for medicine.

Despite these concerns, it is an open secret that an overwhelming number of Republicans and a few of their Democratic counterparts are quietly seeking to push TPP through during the lame-duck session of Congress.

With a lame duck vote, members of Congress who lost their November elections would still be able to throw their weight behind the extraordinarily unpopular deal. Newly elected members would not have a voice. And re-elected legislators would feel free to take a controversial vote that would please their corporate benefactors, confident that voter anger over their decision will subside in the two years before their next election.

A lame-duck consideration of the unpopular TPP would be undemocratic, and would wildly exacerbate frustrations about a rigged system.

Opposing TPP is the right thing to do. But it is also the politically smart thing to do. Hillary Clinton is running for president in opposition to TPP — it is time for Democrats to unify and help her provide a clear choice for voters opposed to unfair trade rules.

In voting against the Central American Free Trade Agreement as a senator, Clinton demonstrated discretion on trade deals. Most importantly, she wants to go even further than stopping new corporate trade deals, promising the United Auto Workers that she would seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement as well.

Hillary Clinton has shown her strong capability to lead on trade throughout the campaign. She’s gone well beyond words, working with the foremost critics of TPP, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, labor leaders, environmental groups and other key stakeholders fighting for fairer trade.

It’s now up to President Barack Obama and the very small number of pro-TPP Democrats in Congress to follow Clinton’s lead. Allowing the possibility of a lame-duck TPP vote to remain on the table would undermine trust in government and validate perceptions of rigged system.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, represents Michigan’s 13th congressional district. A version of this originally appeared in the Hill.