Lane Siekman forms Exploratory Committee for Congress

posted May 8, 2017, 11:44 AM by Lane Siekman

Dear Friends

I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you this morning that I am forming an exploratory committee to test the waters for a congressional race in the Sixth District in 2018. 

Last week's actions in Washington cry out for an response on behalf of the people of the District. Luke Messer must be held responsible for his actions. It is also very likely that he will jump to take on Joe Donnelly for the Senate leaving the 6th as a open seat in 2018. Either way he must be stopped. We cannot afford to just crown another Republican successor in 2018. 

Federal Law prohibits me from announcing or running as a formal candidate unless I file the requisite paperwork with the FEC. The committee can raise $5,000 for an exploration and your help would be appreciated. 

There is a Facebook page at

Please like and share with your friends. I would like to hear your thoughts and inputs. Please put me on your mailing list for any events that may be happening this summer. It's time to have some real town halls with the citizens of this district.

I value your support and friendship.
Thanks for all that you do.


Raise the minimum wage

posted Jan 6, 2015, 1:22 PM by Lane Siekman

The minimum wage hasn't even come close to keeping up with inflation over the past 40 years. Sadly, 40% of Americans make less today than 1968′s minimum wage, as measured in today’s dollars and if the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth since 1968, it would be over $18.00 an hour today.

The United States had no minimum wage until 1938, when Congress passed the FSLA as part of FDR’s New Deal. Before then, employers could pay workers whatever they wanted, and they usually wanted to pay very little. Between 1912 and 1920, 13 states plus the District of Columbia passed minimum wage laws, only to have them struck down by the U. S. Supreme Court because they were “unfair” to workers as it kept them from making low-ball offers. In 1933, congress passed a law that mandated a .25 per hour minimum hourly wage, only to have it struck down as well in 1935 (Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States).

In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had to fight Republicans, conservative Democrats, the Supreme Court and corporate leaders to pass a lasting minimum wage law. In doing so, He warned “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you – using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions — tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”(1938, Fireside Chat, the night before signing the Fair Labor Standards Act that instituted the federal minimum wage)

Studies from both conservative and liberal think tanks have recommended raising the minimum wage, and Australia has had positive results from raising theirs but opponents continue to promote two ideas that are antithetical to the economic well-being of American workers. The first idea being that the minimum wage hurts the economy by reducing job creation. The second being that the minimum wage reduces the opportunity for social mobility. These views are being promoted by Billionaire Charles Koch, who believes that the U.S. actually needs to get rid of the minimum wage altogether , which he counts as a major obstacle to economic growth.

But this isn’t what we have learned from the example set in Australia and its more than $16 an hour minimum wage which was the only major world economy to avoid the 2009 global recession. Australia also ranks ahead of the United States and its $7.25 an hour minimum wage in terms of social mobility and the opportunity for individuals to climb the social ladder. The United States came in 10th, far below countries like Denmark, which ranked first, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain and France.  Australia also had no recession like the U.S. and there was not a single quarter in which GDP declined in Australia.

While raising the minimum wage is ultimately no cure-all for the economy, countries like Australia show that guaranteeing workers a living wage will not result in economic Armageddon. Instead, it highlights how conservatives often revert to scapegoating low-wage workers for America’s economic woes. In the U.S., economic inequality has grown rapidly, and the lagging minimum wage is in large part to blame. Some states have moved to address the growing gap between what people earn and the rising cost of living, but nationally the minimum wage has barely moved in decades.

In a robust economy, the minimum wage really doesn't mean anything since the demand for labor is high and the market rate will likely exceed the minimum amount set by the government. However when the economy is in a recessionary or stagnant mode, the minimum wage is an important tool in maintaining the crucial relationship between labor and capital. In essence, it becomes a “buyer’s market” for labor and allows market forces to keep the value of labor artificially low.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would have raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over two-and-a-half years, in three steps of 95 cents each. It will also adjust the minimum wage annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living - a key policy reform known as "indexing," which 11 states are already using to prevent the minimum wage from falling in value each year and it will raise the minimum wage for tipped workers - which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 per hour for more than twenty years - to 70% of the full minimum wage.

An increase does not cost jobs. Research indicates that the higher cost of hiring someone is offset by the stability an employer gets out of it -— better paid workers quit less. It would reduce income inequality. Two different studies have shown that raising the minimum wage will help raise the incomes of poor people. Finally It could help the economy. People who make less money tend to spend a bigger portion of it. A 2011 study by the Federal Reserve of Chicago found that for every $1 increase in the minimum wage, the worker's household spends about $2,800 more a year. The Economic Policy Institute said in August that raising the minimum wage to $9.40 by 2014 would increase gross domestic product by $25 billion, and create 100,000 new jobs. The typical minimum wage worker today isn’t a teenager but an adult who brings home at least half of family income. An increase in the minimum wage will again help hard-working Americans raise their standard of living. No one who works full-time in this country should have to live in poverty.

Dealing with ISIL

posted Sep 12, 2014, 9:00 AM by Lane Siekman

The President tonight presented a well thought out and comprehensive approach to a very difficult situation. Congress needs to sincerely debate and state their positions as well, but in the end, we need a unified America for the world to see. It is not time for petty political positioning or gamesmanship. We are so much stronger when we are together on international issues. On the eve of the anniversary of September 11th, our country must always remain vigilant and prepared to deal with ISIL and other terrorist groups in this troubled world.
September 10

Why don't we just let the teachers teach?

posted Apr 28, 2014, 2:23 PM by Lane Siekman

The Indianapolis Star says that Indiana's new academic standards are an "absurd jumble". I don't see this as really being a Democrat or a Republican issue but rather as one of the most overwhelming social issues facing this country today. As a parent, I want what is best for my children. We have had standardized tests in this country for a few years now and there has to be some hard data on what does and what doesn't work. The problem seems to be that too many spin the data to their own preconceived notion of what they think is best. Government should concentrate on providing the best resources for schools and educators and allowing them to innovate within their own systems. We need to stop the blame game and certainly we need to look at the motives of those who seek to impose their will from above. Teaching children is not the same as setting up a production line. I don't remember all that I was taught in school but I do remember the teachers. Why don't we just let the teachers teach?

Lane Siekman
April 28, 2014

Messer is wrong on the Hobby Lobby case

posted Apr 7, 2014, 3:35 PM by Lane Siekman

Recently Representative Luke Messer wrote an opinion which stated his position on the Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius cases now pending before The U.S. Supreme Court. Messer argues that the  Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraception mandate is an “infringement on religious liberty” and that emergency contraception is the same as abortion. He is wrong on both counts.

One of the major goals of the ACA is to provide access to certain forms of preventive care without additional cost to the patient, among them, contraceptives for women. Widespread access to contraception is an essential component of healthcare for women of childbearing age. It helps to prevent unintended pregnancy and protects the health and well-being of women and their children. There are medical and social consequences of unintended pregnancy and ensuring the availability of medically appropriate contraception for all women, regardless of their financial status and ability to pay is important. 

Emergency contraception, despite Mr. Messer’s statements, is not abortion. Emergency contraceptive pills work before pregnancy begins. According to leading medical authorities – such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of a woman's uterus. Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later. Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant. Susan Wood, a professor of health policy at George Washington University and a former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA stated “These products are not abortifacients and their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.”

Allowing an employer a religious exemption to the ACA’s mandated coverage requirements would have consequences that extend far beyond contraception. Employers who object to any medical treatment, device, or procedure on personal religious grounds could similarly exclude such services from the coverage they provide—with potentially disastrous results. Employers could, for example, seek to exclude vaccinations that they deem offensive to their  religious beliefs, forcing individuals to pay for objected-to vaccinations out-of-pocket or worse, forgo the medically recommended vaccinations entirely.

Hobby Lobby and Grote are both privately and closely held but for-profit corporations.They  chose this business form for the their own business purposes and advantages. A corporation is a legal abstraction and exists only on paper and despite the beliefs of its owner, it cannot experience or exercise the intensely personal emotions which we associate with religious worship. Only a living person can have faith to believe in God. 

The Supreme Court has never recognized a religious exemption from an otherwise valid legal duty when its exercise would impose substantial burdens on third parties. It is the imposition of the employer’s religious beliefs on the employees that would violate the Establishment Clause. Despite Mr. Messer’s beliefs, health care decisions should be made by patients in consultation with their healthcare providers based on the best interests of the patient and not on the religious beliefs of their employers.

Lane Siekman

Lane Siekman is a Democratic candidate for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District.

Stand United with the President on the Ukrainian crisis

posted Mar 3, 2014, 3:46 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Mar 3, 2014, 3:50 PM ]

In advance of Thursday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the situation in Ukraine, Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the following statement: 

“Time is of the essence.  The U.S. and our allies must make crystal clear to Russia now that its aggression against Ukraine will have major adverse consequences.  We must lead our allies to take a strong and unified stand.  Otherwise, Russian President Putin will be emboldened to take more far-reaching action, increasing the risk of wider conflict and making any diplomatic resolution all the more difficult.  The Western response should include financial, economic and diplomatic leverage to press Russia to respect international norms and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future. The time for those tough actions is now, before the democratic hopes of Ukrainians are crushed.  

“The Committee’s focus in the days ahead will be to press for a quick and vigorous U.S. response.  Russia’s aggression has already set back Russia’s relations with the U.S. and our allies.  Mr. Putin’s actions in the next few days will determine just how badly damaged the relationship becomes.”

I agree that it is important to respond to the recent Russian aggression with a unified stand. It is my hope that a "quick and vigorous U.S. response" also includes standing firmly behind the President in this hour of crisis. President Obama has said “there will be costs” for this military invasion. However, he has already been criticized by politicians such as U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who told a group of reporters at a Washington, D.C., breakfast that “Right now it really doesn't appear the President has a plan.” 

To raise such questions when danger looms in the Crimea is an affront to the office of the President and the brave servicemen and women serving in our military. It is a long standing American tradition to put partisan politics aside when we face a international crisis abroadCurrent global events must be evaluated in a rational historical context that considers our national interests. We need a stable Europe and we will work with our European allies through NATO to ensure that Russia’s territorial ambitions are limited. Russia must pay a price for violating international law but it won't be inter-state war.  The proposal to formally suspend the G8 summit meeting in Sochi is a good first step.  If Putin’s further escalates the crisis then that pressure can be increased. We can petition to remove Russia from the the G8 altogether, sanction Russia's state run banks, or have the European Union cancel energy contracts

But this crisis is Putin’s, not America's. We cannot let the 24 hour news frenzy beat the drum for action at all costs on the pretext that Obama is losing and Putin is winning. Putin is losing already by risking greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanctions. He’s lost a key ally in Kiev and is continuing to further inflame Ukrainian nationalism. His provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe and push countries that rely on Russia’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs. Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges. Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.

We as a nation must be resolute and united in our judgment. We don’t have to listen to the “just do something” crowd. We cannot afford the type of response that brought us the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other interventions. Not every international problem is a vital interest of the US.  We are a strong country and one sure sign of that strength is have a foreign policy and a government that does not overreact to these kinds of situations. 

Take a deep breath America. Stand United on the Ukrainian crisis. The stakes are too high.

Lane Siekman

Luke Messer and School Choice

posted Mar 3, 2014, 1:22 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Mar 3, 2014, 1:24 PM ]

Recently Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) announced that he had formed the Congressional School Choice Caucus.  The caucus supposedly seeks to highlight how “applying market-based principles to education can enhance student achievement.”   Messer and the other members of the caucus will be “dedicated to expanding educational freedom and promoting policies that increase high-quality education for all children.” But what he is really promoting is his ultimate goal of the  privatization of public education in America.

Before he was elected to Congress last year, Messer was employed as the executive director of School Choice Indiana (SCI) . He also served as President & CEO at Hoosiers for Economic Growth (HEG) which, along with several affiliated groups, spent $4.4 million to take over the Indiana legislature. At SCI and HEG, He supported candidates like former Republican State School Superintendent Tony Bennett and education policies such as school vouchers, an expansion of charter schools, and performance-based evaluation and merit pay for teachers.

Messer was backed by backed by wealthy donors, like Michigan Republican activist Betsy DeVos, Philadelphia and New York hedge-fund managers, and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, and has consistently lobbied for increased taxpayer funding of private schools, expansion of charter schools and anti-union measures.  In 2011, He successfully pushed through the Indiana General Assembly the largest school choice voucher program in the country.  

Messer's school voucher programs take a subsidy from public educational funds and put the money towards tuition in private schools.  These  vouchers largely owe their beginnings to economist Milton Friedman’s beliefs that the private sector delivered goods and services more efficiently than public institutions. Indiana will pay an estimated $81 million in private school tuition this year, up from $15.5 million in 2011-12. The cost-per-voucher is slightly less than amount the state gives to public schools per student but now students can enter private schools without ever having to enroll in public schools. Shifting students from a public school into private schools will not decrease what our public schools must pay for teachers and facilities, but the overall funding will decrease as students leave or do not enroll. This decrease in students is already creating budget shortfalls in many of the public schools in the 6th Congressional District.

But Messer argues that we get better schools with competition. Not really. According to the Center on Education Policy’s review of school voucher research, when compared to similar public school students, voucher recipients generally perform at the same level on reading and math assessments. The Indiana SBOE ‘s own Growth Model also tells a different story than the voucher backers. It suggests that public schools, overall, are performing better than charter schools or the private schools — most of them religious schools – that are getting state vouchers.

But for many, vouchers are just the first step. Joseph Bast, the president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, an American conservative and libertarian public policy think tank based in Chicago, explained his own thinking about vouchers once, saying, “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.”

Luke Messer and his ‘school choice’ backers want to demonize traditional public schools and the teachers that staff them, but our public schools are more than just a way of getting a product to a consumer. The public school is the center of the community in Indiana and a basic aspect of our democracy. Our education system should provide true opportunity for all students, no matter what their background or socioeconomic status. The real school choice is between an existing public system that has worked well for over 150 years or a privatized system that relies on someone’s concept of market principles. I believe that our public schools, teachers, parents, students, and local communities can do a better job than an unknown corporation.

The Battle in Tennessee

posted Feb 25, 2014, 12:47 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Feb 25, 2014, 12:48 PM ]

by Lane Siekman

Workers at VW's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently voted against representation by the United Auto Workers union (UAW) and rejected efforts by VW representatives to set up a German-style works council at the plant.  Chattanooga is VW's only factory in the U.S. and one of the company's few in the world without a union.

The election was marred by public statements by elected officials about the impact of a union. Citing “what appears to have been a coordinated and widely-publicized coercive campaign” by at least six named Tennessee elected officials, the UAW filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board on February 21 claiming interference and seeking that the vote be set aside and held again.

One of those officials was Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN),  a former mayor of Chattanooga, who, in the middle of the voting, made some thinly veiled threats about the outcome of the vote. He said "I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga."

Corker's comments were compounded by the Tennessee governor and legislative leaders stating that if workers voted to join every other Volkswagen assembly plant in the world with a union, the state would not provide any additional benefits for expanded jobs and production. All of this was amplified by a campaign funded by Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers. Volkswagen officials however were very clear that the vote would have no bearing on whether the SUV will be made at the Chattanooga plant or at a plant in Mexico. In fact, Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's global works council, said in a statement that forming a council was important if the plant wanted to produce other VW cars.  This vote may ultimately have the opposite effect that Republican leaders threatened and may block further investments by the German carmaker in the U.S. if such opposition continues.The loss of these new investments could be far reaching and devastating in States like Indiana where anti-union laws such as “right-to-work” have been adopted.

Tennessee is just another battle in the coordinated effort to bust unions and choke off funding to organized labor, a traditional cornerstone of financial donations and grassroots support for the Democratic Party. Corker isn’t the only right-winger out to halt UAW’s campaign. In the absence of any overt anti-union offensive by Volkswagen, conservative political operatives worried about the UAW getting a foothold in the South stepped into the fray. There are reports that the conservative groups, including the Koch Brothers and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), have pumped hundred of thousands of dollars into media and grassroots organizing in an effort to stop the union drive. In addition, the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation helped four anti-union workers in October file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Volkswagen was forcing a union on them.

Volkswagen is currently, by most measures, one of the most effective car companies in the world. Worker participation at all levels, including collective bargaining, is a critical component, even at the plant in Mexico. German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined "co-determination" principle. German industrial relations are characterized by a high degree of employee participation up to co-determination in companies' boards ("Aufsichtsrat"), where trade unionists and works councils elected by employees have full voting rights.  Ironically, it was the American sponsored Marshall Plan that created this system to prevent the return of fascism to Germany’s industries.

Local trade union representatives are democratically elected by union members and formally largely autonomous. Central boards of directors ("Vorstand") are elected by delegates. Trade unions in Germany define themselves as being more than a "collective bargaining machine", but as important political player for social, economical and also environmental subjects, especially also for labor market policy and professional education.

This cooperation between labor and management is anathema to politicians like Corker who sees organized labor as a threat to corporate profits and job growth. Corker never said with whom he had the “conversations” but essentially he was just repeating the line in its never ending war on Unions and working men and women.  

But why does this war still persist when union power has already been so greatly reduced? One word; politics. In the mid-20th century, 40 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions; today, just 7 percent do. But the Republicans know that  when it comes to elections, unions are still the most potent mobilizers of the Democratic vote — getting minorities to the polls and persuading members of the white working class to vote Democratic. Republicans carried the working-class whites vote by an unprecedented 63 percent to 33 percent in 2010. This is a direct result of the deunionization of that class.

The impact of this war on workers is hurting America. Wages as a share of gross domestic product are the lowest they've been since 1929, and compensation (that includes health insurance) as a share of GDP is at its lowest point since 1955. Corporate profits as a share of GDP, by contrast, are the highest they've been since 1929. The destruction of private-sector unions is redistributing income upward to the very rich.

All progressives, human rights groups, democracy groups, and labor need to rally together against Sen Corker, Norquist, the Koch brothers and their comrades. The illegal and extreme actions by the right in Tennessee are hurting all Americans. The union movement plays a critical role in building and maintaining a healthy economy and protecting working families. I am proud to be a candidate who understands the value of unions and supports the courageous leaders of the UAW in the Chattanooga plant.

Luke Messer votes against raising Debt Ceiling but offers no alternative.

posted Feb 12, 2014, 2:19 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Feb 12, 2014, 2:39 PM ]

Do you remember when Luke Messer and the House Republicans threatened to put the nation into default last year?  At the time, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., was quoted as saying “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”  Last night, He tried to do it again and voted against a measure to increase the debt ceiling

As Yogi Berra once said “It’s deja vu all over again.”

Today, Messer released a statement said in part, “Today’s debt ceiling increase was a missed opportunity for the American people.”

An opportunity for what Mr. Messer? To take this nation to the brink of a devastating default again to pay the bills which you already authorized in last month’s budget deal? This is akin to threatening to default on your mortgage after you already agreed to buy the house. Without an increase in the statutory debt limit, the U.S. government would soon default on some of its obligations and have to shut down some programs, a historic move that would likely cause market turmoil.

Last night’s vote relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first “clean” debt ceiling increase since 2009.  Luke Messer and other Tea Party-inspired politicians have spurred a cycle of debt ceiling showdowns which raised the risk of default and government shutdown, devastated consumer and economic confidence and create global concerns about our ability to govern ourselves. 

What do you want Mr. Messer? Cuts to Social Security and Medicare, deeper spending reductions, or military sequesters, or just another chance to say how upset you are with President and how you stood firm on the budget? Like Senator Ted Cruz, you have learned that partisan grandstanding in Washington unfortunately often leads to better fundraising for your next campaign. You relied on the hard work and political courage of others to keep this government going forward while you lament the necessity of having to pay the costs. Most economist agree that in order to reach a balanced budget; we have to grow the national economy. The budget deficit for this year is estimated at $514 billion. The trend in the deficit is sharply downwards, but further drastic cuts in government spending would trigger a substantial contraction in the national economy and push this country’s fragile economy back into recession. 

The time to craft spending plans is during budget negotiations, not when the bills are coming due. I call on you to outline your specific plans to break this “cynical cycle of taxing, spending and borrowing.”You voted for the budget resolution last month and nobody agrees that it was perfect. For instance, it reduced pension increases for military retirees, but hard choices are a part of governing our country just as is raising the debt ceiling.  No one likes to borrow money but commitments have been made and the U.S. government has never failed to pay its bills. We deserve more than constant brinkmanship from those that we send to Congress, we deserve leadership. 

Lane Siekman opposes H.R. 3830, says “Fast Track” is An Undemocratic Path to Unfair “Trade”

posted Jan 27, 2014, 12:21 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Jan 27, 2014, 12:26 PM ]

H.R. 3830, named the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014” was introduced to Congress on January 9, 2014. The bill, nicknamed “Fast Track”, allows executive branch negotiators to skirt Congress and use “trade” agreements to rewrite policies that affect all aspects of our daily lives – from the stability of our jobs to the safety of our food.

Fast Track allows the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for “trade” pacts, decide the agreements’ contents, and then negotiate and sign the agreements — all before Congress has a vote on the matter. Normal congressional committee processes are forbidden, meaning that the executive branch  can write lengthy legislation on its own with no review or amendments. These bills have in the past altered wide swaths of U.S. law seemingly unrelated to trade – food safety, immigration visas, energy policy, medicine patents and more – to conform our domestic policies to each agreement’s requirements. Unlike any other legislation, both the House and Senate are required to vote on a Fast Tracked trade agreement within 90 days of the White House submitting it. No floor amendments are allowed and debate is limited.

The current bill in question was introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate last week by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The companion bill in the House was introduced by Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, though it has so far received no Democratic co-sponsors with only his fellow GOP caucus members lining up in support. President Obama is asking Congress to grant him Fast Track’s extraordinary authority – in part to try to overcome growing public and congressional opposition to his controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) deal.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is supposed to write the laws and set trade policy. For 200 years, these key checks and balances ensured that no one branch of government had too much power. But, over the last few decades, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have used the Fast Track mechanism to enact controversial “trade” pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

I oppose H.R. 3830 and other Fast Track enabling legislation. These extraordinary procedures are not needed to approve trade agreements. We have had hundreds of less controversial U.S. trade agreements implemented without resorting to a dramatic shifting the balance of powers of the U.S. government. This bill seizes Congress’ constitutional prerogatives, “diplomatically legislates” non-trade policy, and preempts control of state policy.

The President cannot obtain Fast Track empowerment without a vote of Congress. President Clinton, renowned for trade expansion, only had Fast Track authority for two of his eight years in office due to congressional opposition. The last time Congress authorized Fast Track was in 2002, with a 3:30 am vote before a congressional recess where the bill was approved by just three votes. Since 2007, Congress has refused to authorize this extreme procedure, even after its proponents tried to escape Fast Track’s bad reputation by renaming it “Trade Promotion Authority.” Congress must not allow the executive branch to once again gain Fast Track’s undemocratic powers.

Lane Siekman, 1/27/14

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