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Fast Track revived, budget urgency, pension cuts…

Thursday, June 18, 2015




► THIS MORNING at The Stand — House cuts TAA loose, passes Fast Track — As they did last week, Reps. Denny Heck, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith voted “no” on Fast Track today, but it narrowly passed 218-208. Reps. Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene again voted “yes,” alongside Republican Reps. Dave Reichert, Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

787-murray-cantwell► From The Hill — Obama, GOP revive Fast Track bill — President Obama and GOP leaders in both chambers are inching toward a deal to save the White House trade agenda. Republican leaders announced the House will vote Thursday on giving Obama fast-track authority, less than a week after a failed vote left the president’s agenda in tatters… Pro-Fast Track Democrats are looking for other sweeteners, such as a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Reid Walker, spokesman for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), said his boss “is going to look for every opportunity to reauthorize the bank.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — After some personal lobbying from Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, Sen. Cantwell agreed to support a key procedural motion advancing Fast Track last month in exchange for a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Ex-Im bill to a vote. McConnell still hasn’t made good on that commitment. Meanwhile, Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE, which is a key Boeing supplier of jet engines, has now threatened to move American jobs overseas if Congress doesn’t pass the Ex-Im bill. And who are Congressional Democrats angry at for their “scorched-earth” tactics? Unions.

mcconnell-boehner-trust► From Politico — Trade pact proponents claim new momentum — But Democrats are still weighing whether they can trust Republicans to pass aid for laid-off workers. The entire process hinges on support from Senate and House Democrats who support free trade but insist that the government also provide aid and job training to help workers hurt by foreign trade. Some House Democrats were eager to get the trade deal done, and were looking for assurances from their Senate counterparts. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, wanted a pledge from McConnell that he would clear TAA before they commit to voting for the fast-track bill.

► In today’s NY Times — Trade bill’s fate rests on what’s been missing in Congress: trust — Pro-trade Democrats in the Senate now find themselves in a place of both power and panic as they weigh whether to help Republicans retaliate against House Democrats, all the while trusting those same Republicans to help pass the worker assistance program.

► From Politico — Dems still steamed over labor’s trade attacks — Democrats are still seething over the scorched-earth tactics that unions employed en route to their dramatic, if perhaps short-lived victory on the House floor.

wh-pelosi-obama► From Huffington Post — A new era for trade diplomacy — with a climate protection twist (by Carl Pope) — Most people think of “free trade” agreements as impacting which goods are imported and where they are produced. But in fact, multinational corporations and trade advocates have insisted on prohibiting quality standards — on wages, worker conditions or environmental impacts — calling them “discriminatory.” Importing nations no longer have the right to question the environmental or social impact of the goods they consumed. Since there is no evidence that the general public anywhere would embrace this perverse concept, it has also been an unstated part of trade doctrine that restrictions on the ability of nations to insist on environmental (or social or labor) standards on imports needed to be kept as invisible and opaque as possible. Secret courts have been the preferred mechanism… In her USA Today piece, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi effectively drew a line in the sand:

As we look to the future, it is clear that the debate on the trade authority is probably the last of its kind. The intense debate of the past few weeks has further convinced me that we need a new paradigm.

That is one of the most important political events of the past several years. Investor oriented globalization faces by far its most serious challenge — now its up to those of us who have been left out of trade diplomacy to come forward with better ideas.




PSM-unity-rallies► In today’s Spokesman-Review — It’s time for urgency in state budget (editorial)

ALSO at The Stand:

‘Stop the shutdown!’ Unity Rallies across Washington TODAY

As state shutdown looms, the sounds of silence (by Bill Lyne) — The silence (from budget negotiators) has echoed the larger silence that has grown louder every day: the silence of the corporate community on the issue of taxes and revenue.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Capital-gains tax is best option to fund Senate bipartisan plan on education (editorial) — The bipartisan proposal to overhaul the state’s education-funding system is a welcome sign of progress, but lawmakers must decide on how to raise more money for schools. A capital-gains tax may be the best option.

► From KOMO — Group to lawmakers: Don’t attend U.S. Open until budget is done — “Today we are strongly calling on state Senate leaders (Bruce) Dammeier and (Steve) O’Ban to skip the U.S. Open and get back to work,” said Heather Weiner of Washington United for Fair Revenue.

cone-of-silence► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Lawmakers should lift the cone of silence over budget (by Jerry Cornfield) — Thursday will be the 51st day that the Legislature is in special session — that’s one-and-two-thirds extra sessions — and only 12 days remain to reach agreement to avert the first-ever state government shutdown.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Stop starving the PDC (editorial) — The Legislature must, at the very least, stop bleeding the public’s campaign-finance watchdog. A budget proposal by the Republican-led Senate would cut three more staff positions, including the agency’s in-house counsel, and would curtail needed information-technology improvements.

► From AP — Transportation revenue talks stall in state Legislature — House Democrats in Washington state have stopped negotiations on a transportation revenue package until a state operating budget deal is reached, said Rep. Judy Clibborn.




► In the PSBJ — Everett gets a big boost: Boeing lands largest 747 order in 25 years — Boeing has landed its largest order for the four-engine 747 jet in a quarter century, a 20-jet order from Volga-Dnepr Group, a Russian cargo carrier.

► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma’s $15 wage initiative could be withdrawn, though unlikely — There’s a chance 15 Now Tacoma could withdraw its initiative to raise the minimum wage in Tacoma to $15 per hour. If it does, here’s how it would work.

► In the PSBJ — No layoffs for skycap workers after Alaska Air Group switches providers — The new employer, G2 Secure Staff of Irvine, Texas, has agreed to honor the union contract the workers won from out-going Bags Inc., said Fred Prockiw of SEIU Local 6.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Workers seek back pay from Snohomish blueberry farm — A class-action complaint has been filed on behalf of about 35 immigrant farm workers in King County Superior Court against Golden Eagle Farms.




bail-out-people-not-banks► From AP — Government paves way for multi-employer pension plan cuts — The government is preparing to cut benefits over the next few years for hundreds of thousands of retirees covered by underfunded multi-employer private pension plans. More than 10 million people are covered by 1,400 or so multi-employer plans, but about 1 million of those are covered by plans expected to run out of money in coming years. They would be eligible under the new system that would cut benefits to people already in retirement.

► From Politico — Highway cliff vexes Republicans — Congress is hurtling toward an imminent funding cliff for highways and bridges with no apparent plan to avoid a summertime construction shutdown. There are emerging divisions between House and Senate GOP leaders, who now have fewer than six weeks to deal with a vexing highway problem that’s been unsolved for seven years and costs billions just to keep on life support past July 31.

► From AP — House ready to repeal pieces of Obama health care law — Despite White House veto threats, the House is ready to vote to repeal taxes on medical devices and kill a Medicare advisory board that foes say would ration health care.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Only insurance companies should be allowed to ration care!

► In today’s NY Times — Destructive health care proposals (editorial) — House Republicans are moving two bills to repeal small but important provisions of the health care law.

► From AP — Agency: Staff cuts take toll on IRS tax enforcement efforts — Budget cuts to the IRS are hampering the agency’s efforts to uncover tax cheats, an agency watchdog said Wednesday, and more trims are on the way under legislation approved by a GOP-controlled House panel.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Speaking of tax cheats…




obama-at-walmart► From Bloomberg — Walmart has $76 billion in undisclosed overseas tax havensWalmart owns more than $76 billion of assets through a web of units in offshore tax havens around the world, though you wouldn’t know it from reading the giant retailer’s annual report. A new study has found Walmart has at least 78 offshore subsidiaries and branches, more than 30 created since 2009 and none mentioned in U.S. securities filings. Overseas operations have helped the company cut more than $3.5 billion off its income tax bills in the past six years.

► From In These Times — California court ruling could make it nearly impossible for farmworkers to win union contracts — On May 18, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled that a key provision of the state’s unique labor law for field workers is unconstitutional. Should it be upheld by the state’s supreme court, this decision will profoundly affect the ability of California farm workers to gain union contracts.

► In the Washington Post — Uber driver is an employee, not a contractor, California regulators say — California’s Labor Commission has ruled that an Uber driver was an employee, not a contractor, a potentially costly precedent for the ride-sharing company.

► From AFL-CIO Now — Union-made Father’s Day ideas — Celebrate your dad in solidarity style this Father’s Day by getting him a gift that sports the union label.


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