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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

 1:33 PM 

Column: Pocan splits with Obama on trade

This is an excerpt from Nicole Duran's weekly DC Wrap column. Sign up to get the full column in your inbox each week.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, is becoming a leading congressional opponent of free trade deals and so-called "fast-track" negotiating authority for the executive branch.

After specifically asking Congress to grant him Trade Promotion Authority in his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama pitched the House Democratic Caucus on Friday at its annual retreat in Philadelphia.

Pocan, first vice chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, immediately rebuffed the president's request to allow an administration to present finalized trade deals to Congress for a simple up-or-down vote, without opportunity for amendment.

His office quickly recirculated his post-State of the Union comment regarding TPA and the two massive trade deals the Obama administration hopes for soon: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. "I am disappointed he pushed for an expansion of our nation's flawed trade policies," Pocan stated. "I support fair trade, but I cannot support more bad trade deals that will hurt our American jobs and American industries. I hope President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Froman are open to the concerns my colleagues and I have expressed about the consequences of fast-track legislation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations."

Pocan has penned and signed numerous letters outlining his objections since coming to office in 2013 and has frequently held press conferences on the subject. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, have signed on to some opposition letters as well. Most recently Baldwin and Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey outlined their concerns about financial regulatory provisions in TPP in a letter to Froman.

"Including such provisions in the TPP could expose American taxpayers to billions of dollars in losses and dissuade the government from establishing or enforcing financial rules that impact foreign banks," the trio wrote in December. "The consequence would be to strip our regulators of the tools they need to prevent the next crisis."

Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, has made generally supportive statements about the trade deals but remains noncommittal. He is "committed to working with farmers, workers and businesses to fight for trade policies that elevate standards for workers and the environment, and that help create jobs in Wisconsin," a spokesman for Kind stated. "Rep. Kind has not come out in favor or opposition to any agreements yet because they are still a work in progress. He is committed to working with the administration toward sound trade policies with core environmental and labor standards."

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, is a strong supporter of pending trade deals and supports the trade promotion bill put forward by his committee predecessor, retired Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., to pave the way for congressional sign-off on TPP.

Ryan will speak on the topic Thursday before the Washington International Trade Association.

Read Duran's column for more on this and other DC issues


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