Tuesday, June 23, 2015
UPDATE (9 a.m.) at The Stand — Murray, Cantwell put Fast Track over the top — This morning, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a procedural motion that virtually assures passage of the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority legislation. Needing 60 votes to invoke cloture and end debate on the bill, it passed 60-37, with both Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray voting “yes.”
► From Politico — Margin for error on decisive trade vote: 2 — The suspense rose Tuesday morning when Sen. Ted Cruz announced he is switching his vote against Fast Track. That means Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can now afford to lose only two of the 14 Democrats who last month voted in favor of Fast Track. Organized by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who is threatening to vote no, a group of those Democrats huddled for a strategy session in the Capitol on Monday evening. Most emerged tight-lipped, but several Democrats said that the vote is likely to succeed on Tuesday morning.
Cantwell declined to say what her position on was on Monday night, but a colleague described her as “very upset” with McConnell for not holding a binding vote on the Export-Import Bank before it expires at the end of the month. McConnell held a mostly symbolic vote on renewing the bank after he pledged to give it a vote during the Senate’s last go-round on Fast Track.
► From the Hill — McConnell wants to pass trade bills this week — McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to wrap up work on two trade bills before the Senate leaves for a week-long recess, pressing senators to have “a little more trust.”
► From The Hill — Obama scrambles for votes on fast-track trade authority
► In the Int’l Business Times — How the TPP gives corporations special legal rights (by David Sirota) — Recently leaked drafts of the agreement show the pact includes the kind of “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions written into most major trade deals passed since NAFTA. Those provisions allow companies to use secretive international tribunals to sue sovereign governments for damages when those governments pass public-interest policies that threaten to cut into a corporation’s profits or seize a company’s property. But also like past trade deals, the TPP is not expected to allow labor groups, environmental groups or other nonprofit organizations to bring their own suits in the same tribunals to compel governments to enforce labor, environmental and human rights laws. Meanwhile, Congress has refused to act on legislation that would empower citizens to bring their own cases. The discrepancy is a deliberate effort to make sure trade policy includes a “tilt toward giant corporations,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
► From The Atlantic — Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership unconstitutional? — Provisions that allow foreign investors to bypass the federal courts could undermine U.S. legal protections.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — House Democrats release budget plan — House Democrats released their “no new taxes” operating budget for 2015-17 that would approve raises for state workers and public school employees, spend more on mental health and home care, freeze tuition this year at state colleges, keep state parks open and reduce the number of students in kindergarten through Grade 3.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Dems’ state budget calls for end to tax breaks for refineries, bottled water — As a government shutdown draws near, Democrats are spelling out the tax exemptions the party wants to close in order to raise revenue.
► From WFSE — In rush to finish budget and avert shutdown, some concerning compromises in the House’s otherwise strong spending plan — Prime concerns are parks, children’s and Community Corrections. But the latest House budget plan is mostly good news, especially on state employees’ collective bargaining agreements.
► In today’s Bellingham Herald — Panel: Coal port would lift Whatcom economy — Mark Lowry, president of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, said those are the kinds of jobs that pay mortgages and send children to college: “We are going to make some legacy decisions here in the next few years. We can reverse these (economic) trends. We have the tools to do it, if we have the political will to make these investments.”
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Washington state objects to extra time to empty Hanford tanks — The Department of Energy should not be given additional time to meet a court-enforced consent decree deadline to have the next group of Hanford waste tanks emptied, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Records detail drug deals at Boeing Everett plant — A small group of Boeing workers last year used the company’s instant messaging service to arrange drug deals at the Paine Field plant, according to public records.
► In today’s NY Times — Fewer poor uninsured, study finds in health law — The share of poor Americans who were uninsured declined substantially in 2014, according to the first full year of federal data since the Affordable Care Act extended coverage to millions of Americans last year. The drop was largely in line with earlier findings by private polling companies, but was significant because of its source — the National Health Interview Survey, which is considered to be a gold standard by researchers. The survey shows the impact the law has had as a far-reaching ruling on it by the Supreme Court nears. If the court rules against the government, it would have the effect of eliminating a large share of the subsidies that have enabled many lower-income people to afford health insurance.
► In today’s Washington Post — One year after VA scandal, the number of veterans waiting for care is up 50% — VA’s leadership attributed the growing wait times to soaring demand from veterans for medical services. They are also facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall and warned that they may have to start a hiring freeze or furloughs unless funding is reallocated for the federal government’s second-largest department.
► From the Hill — Sanders pushes to block pension cuts — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is pushing legislation that aims to strengthen multi-employer pension plans and reverse a provision, included in a spending bill passed last year, that allowed pension plans to cut retiree benefits in an effort to shore up the plans’ finances.
► In today’s NY Times — New momentum for paid leave, in business and politics — Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so. With pay for most workers still growing sluggishly — as it has been for most of the last 15 years — political leaders are searching for policies that can lift middle-class living standards.
► From the American Prospect — When charters go union — Most charter school funders hate unions and unions generally hate charters. But more and more charter teachers want to unionize, and labor is helping them do it.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.