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Elizabeth Warren lashes back at Obama on trade agenda

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) fired back at President Obama Wednesday over remarks he made a day earlier about her position trade, further underscoring the increasingly bitter divide among Democrats on the issue.

Appearing Tuesday on MSNBC's "Hardball," the president said Warren and other liberal critics of the administration’s position on a sweeping international trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were on the wrong side of the debate.

Warren — spurred on by labor unions and outside progressive groups — argues that Obama's policies would benefit big businesses and hurt U.S. workers.

"I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this," Obama said.

On Wednesday, Warren responded via Twitter.

"The Obama Admin says I'm wrong — we shouldn't worry about TPP. So why can’t the American people read the deal?" she questioned.



Obama turns to his base for trade support

The president will use a Thursday speech at an Organizing for America summit in Washington to sell liberals on supporting a fast-track trade bill that is seen as crucial to finalizing a pair of international agreements at the top of his agenda.

But many Democratic lawmakers and labor unions are working to kill the bill.

“He’s going to speak to this next generation of progressives and organizers from across the country and continue to make the case for trade promotion authority that paves the way for new, high-standard trade agreements that put American workers first and help American businesses expand,” White House spokesman Eric Schulz said Wednesday.

Obama is ramping up his sales pitch to Democrats, many of whom oppose trade promotion authority bills because they worry new deals with Europe and Asian nations would hurt American workers.



Dean Baker- Obama is failing us all by ignoring the need for currency rules in TPP

The Obama administration is doing its full court press, pulling out all the stops to get Congress to approve the fast-track authority that is almost certainly necessary to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress. One of the biggest remaining stumbling blocks is that the deal will almost certainly not include provisions on currency. This means that parties to the agreement will still be able to depress the value of their currency against the dollar in order to gain a competitive advantage. This is a really big deal, which everyone thinking about the merits of the TPP should understand.

The value of the dollar relative to other currencies is by far the main determinant of our balance of trade. We can talk about better education and training for our workforce, improving our infrastructure and better research, all of which are important for the economy.

But anyone who claims that improvements in these areas can offset the impact of a dollar that is overvalued against another currency by 15-20% is out of touch with reality. If the dollar is overvalued by 20% against another country’s currency, it has the same effect as imposing a 20% tariff on US exports and giving a government subsidy of 20% to imports.

This is the direct effect when other countries deliberately buy up US assets to prop up the dollar against their currency. This is the main reason the United States is currently running a trade deficit of more than $500bn a year.



Add it to the pile of things wrong with the TPP

Liberals target 'absurd' tax breaks for fossil fuels

Source: The Hill

Two liberal lawmakers are marking Earth Day by calling for an end to tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would end tax preferences for oil, natural gas and coal companies. They say their bills could save $135 billion over 10 years.

"At a time when scientists tell us we need to reduce carbon pollution to prevent catastrophic climate change, it is absurd to provide massive taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already enormous profits," Sanders said in a statement.

Ellison said the companies "don't need any more tax giveaways."

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/239700-liberals-target-absurd-tax-breaks-for-fossil-fuels

Dems unveil 'strongest anti-fracking bill' for federal land

A pair of Democratic House members introduced a bill Wednesday to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, commonly known as fracking, on federal land.

Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) touted the measure as the “strongest anti-fracking bill” ever introduced. It would cover national parks, Bureau of Land Management property, national forests, wilderness areas and other lands under federal jurisdiction.

“Our national parks, forests and public lands are some of our most treasured places and need to be protected for future generations,” Pocan said in a statement announcing the bill on Earth Day.

“It is clear fracking has a detrimental impact on the environment and there are serious safety concerns associated with these type of wells,” he said. “Until we fully understand the effects, the only way to avoid these risks is to halt fracking entirely.”


House Republican on trade bill: We have the votes

House Republicans are confident they will be able to pass a contentious trade bill.

“We do have the votes to pass the bill,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) Wednesday. “We are going to pass this piece of legislation.”

With President Obama working to sway skeptical Democrats to back “fast-track” trade legislation, Republican backers at the Capitol painted the upcoming vote as a critical inflection point for the U.S. within the global ecoomy.
“This is a crossroads right now for America,” said Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who said the fate of the legislation would determine “whether or not we are leaders.”

The trade bill, recently hammered out lead taxwriters in the House and Senate, would limit Congress to an up-or-down vote on trade agreements hammered out by presidential administrations. Backers of the bill say the measure would help the president finalize trade pacts, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership with several Asian nations.


Sanders forces delay of trade bill consideration

Source: The Hill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tried on Wednesday to block the Finance Committee from being able to consider a fast-track trade bill.

Sanders objected to a unanimous consent request from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to let the Finance Committee meet, forcing a delay in the consideration of the legislation.

The Vermont senator, who is mulling a 2016 White House bid, said there has not been "a lot of transparency" on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) legislation.

"Not only is there massive opposition to this TPP agreement, but there is a lot of concern that the American people have not been involved in the process, and there's not a lot of transparency," Sanders said.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/239688-sanders-tries-to-block-trade-bill

New Orleans goes smoke-free: a breath of fresh air or a blow to its character?

As of today, you can no longer legally smoke a cigarette inside a bar in the world’s drinking capital, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Perhaps you gasped upon reaching the very end of that sentence. City after city have dealt Big Tobacco the harsh blow of banning indoor smoking. But other cities don’t lure in tourist dollars by aggressively advertising a “do watcha wanna”, laissez les bon temps rouler, attitude. An indoor smoking ban here – which also forbids “vaping” – will reap consequences as unique as New Orleans’s cultural ecosystem itself.

“You just opened up a can of whupass on lots of neighbors in the city,” says Nick Scramuzza, one of three owners of Lost Love Lounge in New Orleans’s Marigny neighborhood. Scramuzza doesn’t look forward to the new noise complaints he’ll receive when half of his customers end up spending their time five feet outside his door (the legally mandated distance) enjoying that holy trinity of smoking, drinking and carrying on. Nor is he necessarily in favor of the government bossing everyone around in such a sweeping manner. “But I wake up with a hangover just from working around the smoke,” Scramuzza shrugs. “So I’m excited about the ban.”

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, New Orleans city government has, since Hurricane Katrina, begun trying to prune some of its cultural shrubbery, turning down the volume a bit. Abetted by uptight neighborhood groups, the city has begun policing bars and nightclubs more strictly, while at the same time fighting a protracted battle to implement a new “noise ordinance” (read: music ordinance) while also debating an impending Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance for the entire city that, to some residents’ dismay, creates more permissive music laws in some instances.



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