Pelosi Floor Speech on Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Promotion Authority
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House floor on Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Promotion Authority. Below is a transcript of the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon, my colleagues. Today, we have a very important decision to make in this Congress. I join with the Speaker in acknowledging the hard work that so many have put in on this important subject. I want to thank the President of the United States and his Administration for being available with their cabinet officers and the rest to explain to us how they see what is in the TPA, the Fast Track – and what the prospects are for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I want to thank our friends in labor, environmental groups, faith-based groups – who have expressed their opposition to so much of what has been presented, all of which will be constructive as we try to move forward with a better Trade Promotion [Authority], Fast Track – not-so-fast Fast Track.
“We all understand we live in a global economy. Some of us, as I do, represent cities built on trade – the city of San Francisco. I grew up in a city where the famous clipper ships brought products to and from our shores in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a great, exciting prospect for expanding markets for our products and having U.S. global leadership.
“I was hopeful from the start of all of this discussion that we could find a path to yes for the Fast Track legislation that was being put forth – some bumps in the road along the way; some potholes along the way; unfortunately, I think, sinkholes as well. But that doesn’t mean that that road cannot be repaired. I just believe that it must be lengthened.
“Each week, each of us goes home to our districts. And in the case of many of us, we put our hand on a very hot stove. We hear the concerns of so many families who have financial instability and uncertainty, some of it still springing from 2008 – 2008, when they were threatened with the loss of their homes, jobs, pensions, having to live on their savings, the inability to send their kids to college, all of it undermining the American dream.
“As the economy has improved under the leadership of President Obama, still, Middle-Class Economics have not fully turned around the country, because the consumer confidence that people must have in order to invest, to spend, to inject demand into the economy is simply not there. So my concern about all of this, it’s about time. It’s about time. Why are we Fast Tracking trade and slow-walking the highway bill? It’s about time.
“People have not recovered from, again, 2008 sufficiently to again have consumer confidence to turn around our consumer economy. And so, I think that, today, we have an opportunity to slow down. We all know we want to engage in trade promotion and the rest of that. But we have to slow down this road. It is not – whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for America’s workers.
“Another element of time that I’m concerned about is the time that is running out for us to rein in the consequences of climate change. I want to just talk about myself for a moment, and I’m bragging. I hold myself second to none in this body on the subject of protecting the environment and recognizing the challenges of the climate crisis. When I first came to the Congress, when President George Herbert Walker Bush was President, he signed my legislation, which is now called the Pelosi Amendment to the International Development and Finance Act of 1989. And that said, that said that any of our directors on any of our multilateral development banks had to have an environmental assessment made and made known to the indigenous people who are affected by whatever development was there, and made known to the world.
“The connection between the environment and commerce is inseparable. And for over 25 years, the Pelosi Amendment has been in effect. When I became Speaker, my flagship issue was energy independence and climate. I speak from some authority on this subject. The son of George Herbert Walker Bush, President George W. Bush, signed the energy bill of 2007. We worked together to find alternatives to fossil fuels. He wanted nuclear. I wanted renewables. We have a very successful energy bill of 2007, done under the auspices of the Select Committee on Climate and Energy Independence that I established as Speaker, which has been abolished since then.
“Pope Francis, in another week, will be announcing his initiative on climate. And while this is all going on, while school children know that this is a challenge that we must face to protect our planet; while people of faith join us and say: this is God’s creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it – in this bill today, the customs bill that’s on the floor right now, it prohibits the USTR from negotiating on climate change. How could it be?
“Twenty-five years ago, the Pelosi Amendment was passed because we saw melting snow in regions where the snow is melting, areas as big as the United Kingdom burning in the Amazon. Twenty-five years later, and we are putting in a bill that the USTR cannot negotiate on climate change. You cannot separate commerce and environment.
“And while I salute the President – he has been magnificent and courageous, going out there and making the fight for America’s leadership on climate change. He has been great. He has an agreement with China, which is almost – [it] could not have been foreseen, except for his leadership and the cooperation between our two countries. So it’s not that he isn’t doing his part. It’s that Congress [is not.]
“Again, it’s about time – slowing down our response, when we should be proactive – and yet, Fast Tracking legislation to do that. What’s interesting is, we in the House, are we labeling ourselves the lower body and giving new meaning to that term? For the Senate to have opportunity for amendment after amendment if their colleagues gave them the vote – but in this House, fast track the Fast Track. No chance to amend any of it. Just vote it up or down. I find that unnecessary, unacceptable, and one place we could go to have a discussion on how to improve the Fast Track legislation.
“But at the same time, the Republican majority is allowing, in the customs bill, amendments to the Fast Track bill – this amendment on climate, other amendments on immigration. And they were spelled out by Mr. Sessions, earlier, with great pride – amendments to Fast Track in the customs bill, but no amendments for Democrats. Again I don’t see how this Congress can ignore that. I don’t see how this trade agreement can ignore it.
“Much has been said about security issues – they are involved in this agreement – that we have to make a geopolitical case for this trade agreement. Of course we always have the safety of the American people as our first responsibility. Their security is what we come here to protect. But how could it be that we are allowing, again – let me say it another way. I have been very prayerful about this. Pope Paul VI – another Pope, mentioned Francis earlier – Pope Paul VI said: ‘If you want peace, work for justice.’ Economic justice. And I don’t see that happening in this Fast Track bill – lifting people up in the rest of the world, or having trade agreements that do not increase the paycheck of American workers. That should be our first order of business.
“Environmental justice – looking at these prohibitions on dealing with climate and 11 other countries in the world, and then our own. Now, again, I commend the President, because in the Fast Track bill, there are some good provisions on the environment – issues, I’m talking about an ethic, a responsibility, a comprehensive view of the future. And again, the Pelosi Amendment addressed the indigenous people, all these people who will be not of the first, shall we say, priority for many of these countries as they make their economic decisions.
“And on the subject of security, last year, 16 former three and four star generals and admirals who serve on the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board released a report; 16 former three and four star generals said that ‘climate change is a catalyst for conflict.’ Climate change, they said, will have an impact on ‘military readiness, resilience both at home and abroad, and they limit our ability to respond to future demands.’
“We have rejected Fast Track before. After NAFTA, President Clinton sent a Fast Track bill to the Congress, and it didn’t even have enough votes to be taken up. The second time, it was rejected. When we had majority in the House, we did not have Fast Track for President Bush. When people say ‘This is the first time a President never had…’ – it isn’t so. We instead, under the leadership of Mr. Levin and Mr. Rangel, instead we had the May 10 agreement, with the basic principles of how we should engage other countries. That is part of – and thank you, Mr. President – that is part of what the TPA has as its goals, but we are dealing bilaterally one country at a time. This is a multilateral agreement with 11 other countries, 12 countries and growing. And we need, we need to slow this Fast Track down. I think it is possible.
“Now, one of the questions that arises is the question of the Trade Adjustment [Assistance] Act. Most of us have not only voted for this, [but] been champions of it over time. It was one of the first issues I dealt with when I came to the Congress – speaking about myself again. It’s really important, but as some of my colleagues have said, our people would rather have a job than trade adjustment assistance.
“I talked about that red hot stove that people put their hand on when they go home. Mr. Cicilline talked about his district, Mr. Norcross about his, Mr. Boyle about his. And the list goes on and on. How do we say to these people: we are here for you, you are our top priority, when the impression that they have is that this is not a good deal for them? But it can be. I’m hopeful it can be.
“So while I’m a big supporter of TAA, if TAA slows down the Fast Track, I am prepared to vote against TAA. Because then, its defeat, [I’m] sad to say, is the only way that we will be able to slow down the Fast Track. Now, I understand there will be some manipulations here, one way or another – what bill comes first, what can come up, what can’t. But the fact is this – the facts are these, actually, that if TAA fails, the Fast Track bill is stopped. They will take up the vote – [though] they said they would not, but they’ve changed – they may take up the vote, but it doesn’t go any place. It’s stuck in the station.
“And for that reason, sadly, because the Senate has sent us the bill that way, connected; sadly, because the if the Fast Track passes it will need TAA, Trade Adjustment Assistance; sadly, I would vote against the TAA. And I just wanted you to know where I was coming from on that.
“For these and other reasons, I will be voting today to slow down the Fast Track, to get a better deal for the American people – bigger paychecks, better infrastructure, help the American people fulfill the American Dream. I thank Mr. Levin, again, for his leadership, and I thank all of our colleagues who have worked so hard on this, really on both sides of the issue. I yield back the balance of my time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”