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Sen. Warren: If Obama is confident about trade deal, he should make details public

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is one of the more vocal opponents in the debate over granting President Obama fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Judy Woodruff talks to Warren about her concerns about transparency and how American workers may be hurt.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And let's hear now from one of the more vocal opponents in this fight, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She is a Democrat who has clashed over this issue with the president. And she is one of the leading voices of the left.

    Senator Warren, we welcome you to the program.

    So, now that they have cleared these procedural hurdles today, is it your concern that the proponents of this trade legislation are now going to be able to move ahead and pass it all?

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) Massachusetts: Well, of course. I am concerned about that, because I am very concerned that we are going to pass a trade promotion authority that greases the skid for a deal that is really good for some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world, but not so good for the American worker.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let me just quote — there are many I could quote, but we just heard Senator Hatch say in a couple of answers that he believes strongly what this is going to do is, it's going to — yes, corporations are going to make money, but they're also going to be creating jobs, and this — the idea that the trade agreements of the past took jobs away is just not true.

  • SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

    Well, there's a lot of data about what's happened in the trade agreements of the past, and the American worker has not done well.

    What worries me here is about the whole process around this trade agreement. You know, it has been negotiated in secret, but there have been 28 working groups that have worked on specific parts of it. But those 28 working groups, they have, all together, more than 500 people who are involved in them.

    Eighty-five percent of those people are either senior executives in the industries that will be affected or they're lobbyists for those industries. In other words, the people who've been whispering in the ear of our negotiators, who have been helping shape it, who have read every draft and helped mark it up, all represent big multinational corporations, not the American worker.

    And my view on this is, when you have a tilted process, you end up with a tilted outcome.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, as you know, Senator, when President Obama has been asked about this — and he's working pretty hard to get this legislation passed — he's made the opposite argument, that in no way is he out there defending the big corporations, that he's looking out after ordinary Americans and about creating jobs for generations to come.

  • SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

    You know, if the president is confident that this is a great trade deal for American families, then the president should let that trade deal be public.

    Let the American people see it before we vote this week, next week, the week after to grease the skids to make it much easier to pass this deal with no amendments, make it much harder to be able to slow down this deal or block this deal.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, I know you heard — or perhaps you didn't — but what Senator Hatch was just pointing out is that there's some confusion, that some people may not understand what's going on, the trade promotion authority will give the Congress the ability, an even greater ability, to look at what's in this legislation, and that once the Trans-Pacific Partnership language is available, that it will be out in the public for debate.

  • SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

    Well, that's like saying, once we make it public, we will make it public.

    The point is, the first vote is going to be to grease the skids, so that it will pass with only 51 votes, and there can't be any amendments to it. The trade agreement that we're talking about, the first one up, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is largely already negotiated. And the president could make it public.

    In fact, I want to make clear, President Bush, when he negotiated a trade agreement, he posted it months in advance of asking Congress to give him even partial trade promotion authority to move this thing through quickly.

    But I want to make one other point, because I think it's really important. And that is, this trade promotion authority is about a whole lot more than just the first deal that's lined up, the one for the Pacific side. It is a six-year greasing of the skids. In other words, the next president and potentially the one after that will have the same ability to ram through trade deals.

    And so, when President Obama says, for example, that he refuses to work on a trade deal that would weaken financial regulations, he can't bind the next president. And, right now, there's a lot of pressure on the next deal that's coming up with the Europeans. We have heard European officials, we have heard the Republicans, we have heard big financial institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, who have all pushed to try to weaken financial regulations.

    If trade authority passes, it is going to make it a lot easier to do that in the next trade deal.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, my understanding, the administration's pushback on that is that that's going to be the case with any legislation, that those battles have to be fought as they come along.

  • SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

    Well, but you have to remember what the difference is in the vote.

    If the Republicans want to do a direct attack on Dodd-Frank, they have got to get 60 votes to do it. But if they want to be able to do it through trade, then they can do it — if this fast-track passes, they can do it with 51 votes. And anyone who's looked around Washington over the past few years understands there is a big difference between having to get to 51 votes and having to get to 60 votes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Very quickly, Senator Warren, so a lot being written lately about whether there's some personal animosity between you and President Obama over this. He's been pretty vocal. You have been pretty vocal. He made the comment the other day to the effect you're a politician, too, like everybody else, and you're just wrong on this.

    Is there something personal going on?

  • SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

    There's nothing personal for me about this.

    You know, this is my life's work. I have spent really all my adult life working on what's happening to America's middle class. And I am deeply, deeply worried that another trade agreement will be another punch in the gut to hardworking families.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senator Elizabeth Warren, we thank you so much.

  • SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

    Thank you.

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