An Uncharacteristic Bout Of Bipartisanship
I never thought I’d see the day, at least in the remainder of President Barack Obama’s second term, when Democrats and Republicans would agree on a piece of legislation vital to the United States’ economic interests. But there was an uncharacteristic bout of bipartisanship in Washington last week as Congress passed the long-awaited renewal of trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation. Without TPA, also known as fast-track, contentious free trade agreements could be filibustered in Congress, so there would probably be no Trans-Pacific Partnership. Actually, it is stretching the truth somewhat to suggest that TPA was approved in a spirit of total political harmony. For many months, senior Democrats in the Senate put up a good fight against a bill they argued would allow unbalanced free trade deals to be rammed through Congress without adequate scrutiny. Indeed, the real acrimony here was between Democrats and their own President rather than the usual Democrat versus Republican, left wing versus right wing narrative we have become so used to. In fact, I’m struggling to remember an occasion during President Obama’s two terms when the White House and the GOP were so closely aligned. Given the President’s protectionist utterings in the early phase of his presidency, it is also remarkable how far he has moved on the issue of free trade. He has therefore proved that he can be flexible. Perhaps it’s now time he softened his stance on other issues, like tax reform, so he could be remembered as a President who got things done, instead of a leader paralyzed by his own stubbornness. Probably too late for that now though.