The newly minted representative of Staten Island and Bay Ridge, Dan Donovan, has barely been at his new job for a week and doesn’t even have district offices set up, but his first major challenge is coming to the fore right now—picking a side on the fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Sunday that the global trade agreement between the U.S. and a somewhat random assortment of Asian, Oceanic, and North American trading partners, is set to receive fast-track authorization in Congress, meaning that the treaty, which is being negotiated in secret by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, would come before the House of Representatives and the Senate for a straight up-or-down vote, with limited debate and no amendments allowed.
The treaty has come under heavy criticism from members of both major parties for either its secrecy, the overt influence of large corporations (who are helping to write the rules), or both.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, the liberal conscience of the Senate, has been particularly outspoken on the treaty’s perceived giveaways to huge corporations, making it easier for them to sue localities, for example, those that regulate pollution. The treaty has also been criticized from the political left for seeming to reduce restrictions on foreign currency manipulation and for eroding labor rights, according to several liberal economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
Many politicians on the right, while generally supportive of the treaty’s pro-big business goals, are angered over the fast-track authorization, which some view as ceding Congress’s Constitutional authority to approve treaties and giving that power over to the executive branch.
Expected signatories to the treaty include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. The TPP has been seen by many as a response to China’s emergence as a global superpower, and China is seen a potential future signatory, a process that would completely avoid Congressional oversight.
Representative Donovan has hedged in his statements on TPP and has not taken a stand on fast-track authorization. Because this is his first full week in office, a couple of dozen calls to his office asking him to vote against fast-track authorization would certainly get his attention.
Representative Donovan does not yet have a local office up and running on either the Staten Island or the Brooklyn side of the district, but his Washington office can be reached at (202) 225-3371.