US President Barack Obama. Image:

Source: Professor Jane Kelsey.

Professor Jane Kelsey.
Professor Jane Kelsey.

‘After yesterday’s stinging and unexpected defeat for the Obama administration’s attempt to advance Fast Track legislation in the US Senate, Senate leaders have worked up a compromise they think will get them past this blockage’, according to Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.

‘That new proposal will be debated over the next few days and will probably get over the line. But the Senate process was always going to be the easy stage’, Kelsey said.

‘Because Fast Track is a “revenue bill” the process was supposed to start in the House of Representatives. That didn’t happen because Obama doesn’t have the votes. Indeed, the way he has run the campaign for Fast Track in recent weeks seems to have alienated more of the House Democrats he needs to get on side.’

On current counts, a vote in the lower house would come up dozens of votes short, with nearly all Democrats and a substantial bloc of Republicans opposed.

In addition, the price that potential supporters of Fast Track would demand could kill the TPPA, notably the inclusion of so-called ‘disciplines on currency manipulation’, targeted at Japan but also affected Malaysia.

With the House of Representatives and Senate due to go on recess the week after next there is no way a vote could happen before the 26 May meeting of TPPA ministers.

Yet Japan and Canada, and possibly several other countries, have made Fast Track a precondition for any final political decisions.

US President Barack Obama. Image:
US President Barack Obama. Image:

‘Even were Obama to garner enough support, the House and Senate bills would then have to be reconciled, and subject to another vote in each house.’ 

‘Yesterday’s flurry was a foretaste of the divisive political battles that will play out in the US Congress over the next couple of months’, Professor Kelsey observed. 

‘Obama is now forced to rely on Republicans, with whom he has an otherwise toxic relationship. Unless they can together work a miracle, there is still no prospect of getting a final deal into Congress before the August recess, and the window effectively closes on finalising the TPPA during his presidency.’

‘If Obama does pull it off, he will have wrought immeasurable damage inside his own party as it heads into a crucial election year.’

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.