U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in opposing fast track trade authority, or "Trade Promotion Authority" (TPA) for fellow Democrat: President Barack Obama.
TPA is an authority that has been granted in one form or another to every president since Franklin Roosevelt. It enables the executive branch to negotiate trade agreements with other nations while still allowing Congress to accept or reject the agreement with an up or down vote on the entire, final package.
Without the provision, foreign governments have little incentive to negotiate with the United States fearing every clause and agreement being subject to U.S. Senate questioning and revision.
International trade is a vital part of Illinois' economy, rising by 64 percent from 2009 to 2012. But Sen. Durbin is not impressed.
“I have always been critical and skeptical of fast-tracking," says Durbin. "Many people who picket me say, ‘Vote against it.’ And I’ll go up to them and say, ‘What part do you disagree with?’ And they’ll say, ‘Fast-track.’ And I’ll say, ‘No, that’s the process. What substantive part do you disagree with?’ And they’ll say, ‘We don’t know because we don’t know what it’s in it.’”
The real reason for blocking TPA is that doing so allows Democrat lawmakers to kill the talks without seeming to reject trade outright. Free trade deals are extremely unpopular among organized labor, which is the Democratic Party's primary source of money and votes.
A battle to get the bill through Congress would divide the party and present risks at the polls this November. Therefore, most analyst believe neither Obama nor the Democrats in the U.S. Senate will move on this anytime soon - despite the effect on jobs in Illinois or nationwide.