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Congressman Scott Peters defends his Yes votes on Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)

Photo Credit: John Nicksic
Photo Credit: John Nicksic

Yesterday, I stood with this sign outside the HQs of the San Diego County Democratic Party in a “Walk of Shame” for my Congressman, Scott Peters, as he arrived to address the monthly meeting of the Council of Clubs.  We were there after two years of lobbying this Congressman on the secret, corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and its companion Fast Track bill, who told us a year ago he would vote No, but who succumbed to the White House charm offensive and delusions of grandeur to vote Yes with a handful of other Democrats in our California Congressional Delegation.

After he walked our gauntlet, I followed him into the meeting, as a registered Democrat who has been very active in the San Diego County Democratic Party since 2004, including co-founding its vaunted Grassroots Organizing (GO) Team in 2005 and serving as Vice Chair for the North Area in 2009-11.  I am a member of two local Democratic Clubs, the Democratic Woman’s Club of San Diego County and the Clairemont Democratic Club.

I stationed myself at the back of the room, at the end of the center aisle directly in front of the speaker’s podium, standing with my sign.  The Director of Clubs told me the meeting was only for the Presidents of San Diego County Democratic Clubs, their designees or invited guests.  I expressed surprise that this monthly meeting would be closed to registered Democrats who are members of the San Diego County Democratic Party and of San Diego County Democratic Clubs.  She asked me to leave, but I stayed put.  No one tried to escort me out.

Shortly, Congressman Peters was given the podium.  This is not a transcript of his remarks of about 10 minutes, nor his replies to questions that followed for about 10 more minutes.  This is what struck me most in his remarks and replies.

First, Congressman Peters framed his Yes vote for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), first in concert with Trade Adjustment Assistance and second without, as supporting President Obama, whom he trusts to negotiate the final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with the authority granted by the passage of the TPA.  He said he trusts President Obama more than he trusts Boehner (GOP House Speaker) or McConnell (GOP Senate Majority Leader).

What Congressman Peters failed to state, until questioned later, is that TPA gives this negotiating authority to the President for several years — not just President Obama and not just for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.  His rationalization of supporting his party’s President also fails to perform THE Constitutional role of the Congress — to act as a Check and Balance on the Executive Branch.  Congress isn’t supposed to “trust the President” — it is supposed to check his/her work.  This isn’t a failure to support your President, this is carrying out the job laid out in the Constitution for Congressmembers.

Congressman Peters subsequently also rationalized his Yes votes for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in the context of winning a larger number of seats for Democrats in the House.  He pointed out that the 118 Democratic seats in the current House is the lowest ever, and asserted that we can’t grow that number through “ideological purity”, but must make our tent bigger.  I was dumbfounded.  The House GOP majority was gained in 2010 and grown in 2012 (when Peters was elected) and 2014 by TEA PARTY-backed candidates — the most ideologically pure since Newt Gingrich’s “Contract for America” in 1994 retook the House in the wake of the first election of Bill Clinton as President.

What Scott Peters and other “Third Way Democrats” don’t get/won’t acknowledge is that voters are motivated by candidates and electeds who are clear and consistent in their beliefs and values, and act in congruence with them.  As one of the invited guests at this meeting pointed out during the Q&A for Congressman Peters, people are leaving the Democratic Party in droves, changing the voter registration to “Decline to State” because of the failure of Democratic electeds to vote, speak up and lead in congruence with the public policies advocated by the Party at the national, state and local levels in platforms and resolutions adopted by Party members.  (See footnote below.)

I abhor much of what the Tea Party stands for — but it DOES motivate its adherents to show up in elections, as we have witnessed the past 5 years.  In sharp contrast, the equivocation of Democratic electeds like Congressman Peters, and their failure to clearly walk the talk of the Democratic Party, has driven down voter turnout to historically lowest levels.  

Consumers like labels that tell them what is in their food, medicines and other products.  There are Truth in Advertising laws for consumer products.  We need to demand Truth in Advertising from our Democratic elected officials — don’t advertise yourself as a Democrat if you aren’t going to honor the principles of the Democratic Party and the public policies advocated by it.  That’s not “ideological purity,” it is Truth in Advertising.

Footnote:  Adopted by the California Democratic Party at its May 2015 State Convention
Anaheim Convention Center, May 17, 2015


RESOLUTION 15-05.52 Trans-Pacific Partnership

WHEREAS, the latest provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement System aggressively expand the powers of multinational corporations, giving them the ability to undermine democracy by challenging our federal, state and local laws and programs that could diminish any of their future expected profits in international tribunals; and

WHEREAS, the TPP will spur another exodus of American jobs in the service, public and manufacturing sectors, as it includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers, programming, engineering, and manufacturing jobs, putting Americans out of work; and

WHEREAS, such unfettered power would result in an erosion of collective bargaining rights and a rollback of labor, health, consumer safety, and environmental regulations, and spurring a race to the bottom and an increase in wealth and income inequality;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party reaffirms its longstanding opposition to “fast tracking” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, denounces any elements which result in the massive expansion of corporate power and the weakening of democratic rule and workers rights, and calls for the disclosure of all the details of the agreement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOVLED, that the California Democratic Party send this to our congressional delegation and President Obama.

Sponsored by Willie Pelote, AFSCME International, AFL-CIO and AFSCME California PEOPLE, Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation, CDP Chairman John Burton, and 25 DSCC members.

The issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was originally brought to the attention of the CDP Resolutions committee in 2013 by Susie Shannon (AD50), Dorothy Reik (AD50), and Adrienne Burk (AD46).

Martha Sullivan
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Democratic Woman’s Club of which she is a member.