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Democrats revolt against Obama over TPP

Published time: May 24, 2012 15:45
Edited time: May 24, 2012 19:45
Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

A leading Senate Democrat has called out US President Barack Obama over his alleged unwillingness to keep Congress updated on negotiations over a treaty that might be potentially disastrous for America.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced legislation on Wednesday that specifically targets the Obama administration by demanding that the White House open up on details about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive, international trade agreement that, if passed, would greatly affect consumers from coast-to-coast. The lawmaker isn’t alone in his opposition against the administration, either — more than 60 House Democrats and at least one Republican have objected to provisions of the TPP, and more are expected to line up as details are made public.

According to the senator, President Obama and his cabinet have gone out of their way to keep Congress uninformed on the details surrounding the TPP, including even members of his own political party, such as Sen. Wyden. What’s more, argues the senator, is that if anyone should be kept update on the issue, it’s him — as chair of the United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, it is his job to be up to snuff on proposals such as this.

On the contrary, Sen. Wyden and his office have been largely kept out of the picture. The massive corporations with personal stock in the TPP, however, have been all too informed though, he says.

“The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement,” claims the senator.

That isn’t to say that Big Businesses and their Washington lobbyists are invested without reason, though. If passed in its current form, the TPP includes some seriously scary provisions that would, among other things, ban “Buy American” preference for US manufacturers and change intellectual property standards that are almost certain to cause for an increase in prescription drug costs and thus have a major impact on the American health insurance industry and all groups linked to it.

The senator claims that his office has continuously sought out more information about the proposed legislation, only to be time and time again told that his staffers lack the necessary clearance to be kept privy on the policies. Sen. Wyden says in a statement this week that he then attempted to get his office cleared to be informed of the legislation, only to be continuously left out of the picture.

“As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, my office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR [United States Trade Representative] and trade negotiations,” says the senator.

“More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing,” he adds.

In a statement offered to the Huffington Post, Wyden spokesperson Jennifer Hoelzer claims that the Obama administration in interpreting a decade-old law to say that only members of the Congressional Oversight Group or staffers involved with the COG office are allowed to see the agreements.

“If that is in fact their interpretation, it means that neither Senator Wyden nor his trade subcommittee staff are allowed to review documents pertaining to trade agreements,” says Hoelzer.

Now in order to deal with this grievance, Sen. Wyden has proposed legislation this week that would require the USTR “to provide documents related to trade negotiations to members of Congress and their staff upon request.” Bloomberg News reports that the USTR office has yet to offer an official response.

This is but the second time this week that Sen. Wyden has made headlines for outspoken views delivered before Congress. On Monday, he attacked the supporters of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, by calling it “an overreaction to a legitimate fear” that would only create “a Cyber Industrial Complex.”