As the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill makes its way through Congress, President Obama continues to make the case that he needs the authority and flexibility that the bill affords him in order to make the most favorable deal possible for the United States. Many Democrats and others, however, have serious concerns about the trade deal itself, and the fact that the TPA bill would make it possible for a simple majority of Republicans (is there any other kind?) could pass it without a single Democratic vote.
At Tuesday's White House daily briefing, I asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest if he could allay the latter concern:
Tommy Christopher: Let's say the TPA is passed, the final deal is put online for 60 days before the final vote. Will the president be listening? If the public rises up and says, "This is a terrible deal and we don't want it," would the president be listening, and be willing to veto a TPP deal that passed with a simple majority?
Josh Earnest: Here's the thing that I think a vast majority of Americans can be confident about, that the most important thing standing between the American people and a bad TPP deal is a president of the United States that, for the last six and-a-half years, has scratched and clawed to protect the interests of middle class families all across the country, and they can be confident that as he weighs an agreement, if one is reached, that he will have the interests of middle class families first in his mind.
...The goal of this process... is to level the playing field in some of the most dynamic economic markets in the world, and that by leveling the playing field for American businesses, we can create an opportunity for our entrepreneurs, our innovators, our small and large business owners and our workers to compete and win, and that's going to expand opportunity for American businesses and for American middle class families, and that's what we're focused on. Again, if the agreement doesn't meet that test, then the president won't sign it."
It is that inability of the public to look at the actual TPP draft while it's being negotiated that progressive opponents have pointed to in order to characterize it as a "secret deal," and it is the 60-day window that the White House has pointed to as a response to concerns about transparency. In the scenario I described, who really knows if President Obama would veto a deal that he, himself, favors, but let's get real for a second: What are the chances that the general public will ever read a single syllable of that draft once it is available, let alone rise up with one voice to smite it? To most Americans, TPP is just how Jimmy Two-Times asks for toilet paper.