It’s past time for Polis to decide on fast track for TPP


Some people just can’t make up their minds. Where should I eat? Blue or red? The Voice or Dancing with the Stars? Obviously, indecision on the part of most people doesn’t have much significance for the rest of us, but that’s not true of everyone. When Congressman Jared Polis is indecisive, you better take cover. History tells us bad things happen when he struggles to make a decision on something until the last minute.

Before I dive in, I should point out that I think Jared Polis does some good things for his district, for Colorado and for the country. He’s been helpful on a number of social justice issues, he’s been a champion for education, he’s supported certain “big green” environmental issues including some that are actually good for the environment and he’s been a leader when it comes to equal rights for the LGBTQ community among other things.

That said, when it comes to economic issues such as the oil and gas industry or international trade agreements, I find him to be anything but progressive or decisive.

You may recall the last time the congressman had a moment of indecision on such an issue. It caused a quarter of a million signatures of Coloradans who had signed petitions to put two initiatives on last November’s ballot to pretty much vaporize. Instead of a statewide vote that could have allowed communities to better protect themselves from oil and gas contamination, we basically got a rigged Oil and Gas Task Force specifically designed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to make it impossible for any task-force recommendations that could have threatened oil and gas profits or the industry’s access to drilling inside neighborhoods and towns to make it to the state legislature. By stacking more than half the panel with industry representatives and his own political cronies and then requiring a two-thirds vote of task force members to send anything to the legislature, Hickenlooper managed to neuter the task force before it ever convened. Is it even possible that Polis didn’t see that one coming? I know several hundred thousand people who did.

But that’s all spilt milk for now. Today there is another pressing issue that Rep. Polis can’t seem to make up his mind on: “fast-track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Polis has been asked what his position is on this critical issue for months now yet he continues to claim that he hasn’t made a final decision. If that’s true, then he is nearly the only member of Congress still struggling. More than 150 Democrats and quite a few Republicans have already stated their opposition to the president’s request for fast track on the TPP.

Fast track would force Congress to vote up or down on this incredibly long and complicated trade agreement without allowing badly needed discussion or debate on the thousands of complex components in the agreement, which have been negotiated in secret and even written in part by corporations trying to bypass U.S. environmental laws and labor protections. We know this in part thanks to WikiLeaks.

It’s one thing for Polis to say he hasn’t made up his mind on how he’s going to ultimately vote on TPP. It’s another for him to not even be able to decide if he thinks a secret trade agreement that will impact the lives of every American should be off limits to debate and discussion by our elected representatives before it gets a vote.

In reality, fast track is simply a decision as to whether corporations and the wealthiest Americans are more important than the rest of us. Fast track is a vote to allow corporate interests to bypass democratic oversight.

If you can’t make up your mind on this one Mr. Polis, you have some big problems on the horizon. Nationally, more than 60 percent of all Americans, regardless of political persuasion, oppose fast track for the TPP. Here on the Front Range, I think the congressman would agree that the number of voters opposing it is significantly higher than two-thirds.

Does the fact that his constituents overwhelmingly want him to vote “no” on fast track mean that he should have to do so? Nope. We live in a representative democracy. Rep. Polis was elected to study the issues carefully and then decide what he thinks is best for the people he represents. If he thinks fast track is best for us, even if we don’t agree, he should go ahead and vote for it. That’s how our system works.

Of course, if he then can’t explain to people why it was the best thing for them as opposed to being the best thing for him… Well, we all know what happens then.

It’s past time for Polis to stop holding his finger in the political wind on this issue. It’s true he would gain political favor with the president and some members of party leadership if he votes “yes.” And that could lead to more influence within the party down the road, which is something he has made clear he desires.

The downside, of course, is that the people he purports to represent are getting really angry with him because they are not idiots and they know that fast track is wrong for the environment, wrong for American jobs and that even our ability to have local laws regulating things like fracking or minimum wage could be overturned by tribunals established under TPP that operate completely outside of any democratic system.

If Polis thinks voting for fast track is the right thing to do then he should just admit it and give the people who have given him the opportunity to cast that vote an honest explanation.

At this point, his professed indecision is causing too many people too much unnecessary anxiety to be justified. I suspect that waiting serves a purpose for the congressman. If it looks like fast track isn’t going to pass he can cast a vote against it at the last minute and be a hero at home. If it is going to pass, he can jump on board with a “yes” vote and make his case for more power within the party and among the wealthiest influencers of our political system. I hope I’m wrong about such a motive.

The truth is, the thousands of pages of the TPP are complicated. But fast track isn’t. A vote for fast track is simply an acknowledgement that political power and corporate influence is more important than constituents and democracy. It’s time for Jared Polis to tell us which he serves.