By The Denver Post Editorial Board
Not long after last week's narrow House vote to provide "fast-track authority" for the president to finish a trade deal with nations across the Pacific Rim, Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican, sent out a fund-raising e-mail touting his opposition.
"I proudly voted to defeat ObamaTrade ... twice!" Buck declared.
And why? Because "Obama could use his overreaching trade authority to advance: A radical climate change agenda; Amnesty for illegal aliens; Unpopular gun control laws; Payoffs for big labor."
This breathtaking series of dangers is both imaginary and unrelated to the actual goals of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And the last item, "payoffs for big labor," is particularly ironic.
Labor unions have been, along with environmental groups, the most tireless and formidable opponents of the trade deal. Labor's opposition explains why so many Democrats, including Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter, voted against fast-track authority.
For Buck to claim that a fast-track vote will somehow redound to organized labor's benefit is simply mind-boggling.
Every president asks for fast-track authority before concluding trade deals. Negotiators can't have Congress demanding changes to a deal involving 11 other countries that took years to finalize.
If Congress doesn't like the final product, it is free to reject it outright at that time.
Colorado exports more than $1 billion in agricultural products, and more than $300 million in beef and veal alone — much of which comes from Buck's 4th Congressional District. If anyone should be supporting free trade, it is the freshman congressman.
Fortunately, three other Colorado House Republicans and one House Democrat, as well as Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, seem to understand the importance of the TPP, which covers 40 percent of U.S. trade, in breaking down barriers and creating a level playing field for Colorado exporters.
Indeed, Bennet and Gardner voted again Tuesday on a procedural measure to move fast-track authority forward — with the final vote expected to occur Wednesday. In doing so, they stood by their votes last month.
The fast-track drama in Congress has gone on long enough. It's time to support expanded trade.
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