Update, May 13, 2015: The drama of Democrats blocking trade promotion authority is over, and for naught. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to allow votes on two Democratic priorities ahead of the bill for trade promotion authority. “Holding the additional votes would ‘not imperil’ the fast-track bill, McConnell said. . . . Though the agreement locks in votes on worker protections, it stops short of what Democrats were demanding on Tuesday [May 12]: A guarantee they will become law by attaching them to the Trade Promotion Authority legislation.”
Update and possible correction, May 20, 2015: Since this post was published, Michael Wessel has explained in fuller detail the secrecy surrounding the TransPacific Partnership. In what follows, I suggest that Senator Rand Paul is half-right about this. It is possible I should have said he may be more than half-right. The trouble is that Wessel is able to write based on his own experience as a “cleared advisor,” in which he has access to much, but apparently not all, of the text of the proposed agreement. He appears to assume but does not explicitly state that lawmakers have comparable access. So it is possible that lawmakers have more or less access than Wessel describes.
Update, May 22, 2015: The Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority today, sending the bill to the House of Representatives. Both the currency manipulation and Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism amendments failed. In addition, Paul Krugman has come out against the TransPacific Partnership, writing:
Instead of addressing real concerns, however, the Obama administration has been dismissive, trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not: the skeptics have on balance been more right than wrong about issues like dispute settlement, and the only really hackish economics I’ve seen in this debate is coming from supporters of the trade pact.
It has the sound of an obituary, even if, as Manu Raju, writing for Politico, puts it, “The vote does not kill the trade agreement — the Senate could reconsider the bill anytime — but it amounts to an embarrassing setback for the White House at a key time in the delicate, 12-nation TPP talks.” But also, “The failure of the White House to overcome a Democratic filibuster came despite one of the most sustained lobbying efforts the Obama administration has taken since the president assumed office.” Some senators, it seems, objected to how Obama had treated Elizabeth Warren. Others simply stood firm on insisting that trade promotion authority be accompanied by measures “to help displaced workers and a plan to crack down on currency manipulation, child labor and certain trading practices.” Read more