TPP In Trouble

Boy, I hope the negotiators from the other countries end up showing more spine than Democratic senators did on fast track authority. Politico reports the encouraging developments here.

Negotiators from the U.S., Canada and 10 Pacific rim nations appeared unable to reach a deal on what was billed as the biggest trade pact in history because of differences over agricultural and auto markets and protections for drug makers.

“We are not going to have TPP closed during this round,” a senior official from one of the nations predicted about the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

A number of issues are proving problematic, including extended patent protections for Big Pharma.

U.S. drug manufacturers say they need 12 years of data protection for new biologic medicines to recoup research and development costs. A group of countries led by Australia insist drug makers should get no more than five years of protection to hasten development of cheaper generic or “biosimilar” drugs, which are more affordable for consumers. Many expected the negotiations to settle around seven or eight years, but an agreement had not been reached.

Politics will increasingly play a role if an agreement is not reached soon.

“It would be a very significant setback if they don’t reach a deal in Maui,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “I don’t think it’s fatal, but what I think they would need to do is reach an agreement by mid-August.”

That would still allow Obama to push the agreement through Congress before Iowa and New Hampshire hold their early presidential primaries. If it happened much later than that, Clinton might be forced by opponents such as Sen. Bernie Sanders into a position of opposing the agreement or promising to renegotiate if elected president.

“That would put enormous pressure on the 28 Democrats who voted for trade promotion authority” to withhold their support for the TPP deal, Hufbauer said.

Here’s hoping the whole thing falls apart right now,

Vying To Be #10

Three GOP governors – Kasich, Christie and Perry – are making a last minute push to not be relegated to the kids’ table at the debate next week. Two of them will make it, one won’t, per Politico.

With just six days to go before the inaugural Republican primary debate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry are locked in a three-way scramble for the last two podiums on the main stage.

The fight for entry into Fox News’ primetime event — and the fear of being relegated to the early-evening undercard debate — has forced all three candidates to step up their media campaigns, courting Fox News and conservative radio outlets in an effort to curry last-minute support before the polling window closes on August 4.
This week alone, Christie has made four appearances on Fox News, accounting for more than half of the total appearances he’s made on the network since launching his campaign in June. Those hits include coveted primetime interviews with the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity, all of whom draw millions of viewers. Perry has made three appearances on the network since Tuesday. Kasich, who appeared on “Fox & Friends” on Friday, will do so again on Saturday. He is also talking to influential conservative radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Hugh Hewitt.
The importance of qualifying for the debate, which takes place Aug. 6 in Cleveland, Ohio, has upended the usual pace of the primary campaign. Six months out from the Iowa caucuses, candidates would normally be focused on building local support in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But with national polls determining inclusion in the debate, campaigns have been forced to play for a far-wider audience, either through media interviews or attention-grabbing headlines.
“No one has ever paid this much attention to the national polls this early on,” a staffer with one of the three campaigns said. “We’ve been very aggressive engaging with voters on the ground, but so many people paying attention to the polls now.”

The clown car just keeps getting clownier. So looking forward to the debate – it’s tailor made for a drinking game.

Van Hollen Likes The Iran Deal

Congressman Chris Van Hollen has issued a lengthy statement assessing his view of the terms of the proposed deal negotiated by the U.S. and other nations with Iran. Key points:

In my view, opponents of the agreement have failed to demonstrate how we will be in a better position if Congress were to block it. Without an agreement, the Iranians will immediately revert to their status as a threshold nuclear weapons state. In other words, they immediately pose the threat that Prime Minister Netanyahu warned about in his U.N. speech. At the same time, the international consensus we have built for sanctions, which was already starting to fray, would begin to collapse entirely. We would be immediately left with the worst of all worlds – a threshold nuclear weapons state with diminished sanctions and little leverage for the United States.

I disagree with the view that we can force the Iranians back to the negotiating table to get a better deal. All of our European partners have signed on to the current agreement. Consequently, the U.S. would be isolated in its quest to return to negotiations. And in the unlikely event that we somehow returned to negotiations, the critics have not presented a plausible scenario for achieving a better agreement in a world where fewer sanctions means less economic pressure.
The bottom line is that if Congress were to block the agreement and the Iranians were to resume nuclear enrichment activities, the only way to stop them, at least temporarily, would be by military action. That would unleash significant negative consequences that could jeopardize American troops in the region, drag us into another ground war in the Middle East, and trigger unpredictable responses elsewhere. Moreover, the United States would be totally isolated from most of the world, including our Western partners. The folly of that go-it-alone military approach would be compounded by the fact that such action would only deal a temporary setback to an Iranian nuclear program. They would likely respond by putting their nuclear enrichment activities deeper underground and would likely be more determined than ever to build a nuclear arsenal.

As it happens, I agree fully with what Van Hollen has said. The idea that there is some mythical “better deal” out there if we only act tough and keep saying no, is a fantasy. Those who hold most firmly to this pretend view of the world are the foreign policy idiots who’ve screwed up pretty much everything over the past 30 years, from the end of the Cold War to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism to the nutty belief that invading Iraq would usher in a new era of American hegemony in the Middle East. They have no credibility. There’s no such thing as a perfect deal, but this deal is as good as we could have hoped for under all the circumstances.

Takoma Park Mayoral Campaign

Two mayoral candidates that I know of, both current city council members.

Kate Stewart was elected to the council in 2014 representing Ward 3. and had a kickoff event last week. Her campaign website is here. Tagline: “Proactive leadership for a vibrant and inclusive community.”

Seth Grimes is also a current member of the city council, elected in representing Ward 1. His campaign website is here. Tagline: “Experience, achievement and a passion for service.”

Both mayoral candidates will be vacating their council seats, so I expect spirited campaigns there as well.

If there are other candidates, please let me know. The election of the new mayor and city council will be held on November 3 – just a little over three months from now.

Barve Press Release

An award and an endorsement for Kumar Barve today prompted the following press release.

Delegate Kumar Barve, a candidate for the open seat in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, will receive the “Public Servant of the Year” award from the International Leadership Foundation tonight at their annual dinner in Washington D.C.

“Kumar Barve is an historical civic leader in the Asian Pacific American community. He is the forerunner who opened doors for thousands of others to engage in the civic life of their communities and enter into public service careers”, said ILF CEO and co-founder Chiling Tong.
Barve will also be a speaker at a conference later today cosponsored by the ILF and the Coalition of Asian American Business Organizations.
The International Leadership Foundation promotes the Asian Pacific American community’s economic success and its burgeoning participation in government, civic and public service. The gala dinner will include remarks by former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta and several Members of Congress.
The Barve campaign continued to build momentum as the Asian American Action Fund endorsed Delegate Barve’s bid for the U.S. House of Representatives at their gala event last week.
“Kumar Barve will add an important voice to the United States Congress. As a progressive Asian American known for bringing different people together and getting results, he will be an empowering leader on economic and social issues to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across Maryland and the nation,” stated Paul Tiao, co-founder, Asian American Action Fund.
The Asian American Action fund is a progressive political organization that works to help elect Asian Pacific American Democratic candidates who have a demonstrated commitment to the community and by engaging Asian Pacific Americans in the political process.
Asian Pacific Americans, comprising about 8-9% of the population, represent a growing and increasing politically active community within the 8th Congressional District of Maryland. Barve, the first Indian American elected to a state legislature in United States history, would be the first Asian American elected to Congress from the State of Maryland.

I Stand With Planned Parenthood

This. Every word. It’s not up for debate – you’re either on the right side or you’re part of the problem. Period.

Planned Parenthood is at the leading edge of providing the highest quality reproductive health care — including providing every new form of FDA-approved contraception and using technology to reach patients in underserved areas. That commitment has led to important health advances and helped produce the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in nearly 40 years.

* * *

One in five women has relied on Planned Parenthood for health care in her lifetime. Those women are the victims here. Planned Parenthood patients turn to us not just because they know we uphold the highest medical standards of care but also because we are part of their local community. More than half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas. And for many low-income women, Planned Parenthood health centers are their sole source of medical care. Our health centers are lifelines that our country cannot afford to cut.

The extremists will not win this battle. The goal of these attacks is to get Planned Parenthood to stop providing care — and that will never happen. We have proudly provided reproductive health-care services for 99 years, and we are only getting started.

I think we’re done here. Any questions?

McIntosh To Endorse Van Hollen

Take away the question mark from what I wrote yesterday. If John Fritze writes it then it’s going to happen. And he also adds an important point about Maggie McIntosh’s history with Barbara Mikulski.

McIntosh’s support is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is she has long been viewed as close to Mikulski. Prior to winning her election to the House of Delegates in 1992, McIntosh served as Mikulski’s campaign manager and state director.

Mikulski has not taken a position in the race to succeed her.

More On The Transit Center

As further details emerge about the dispute between Montgomery County and Metro, the more it becomes clear that Metro’s demands to the County are both ham-handed and almost comically absurd. The Post article today notes, among other things, that it’s not clear that different Metro officials actually know what the rest of the agency is doing.

According to documents made available this week by the county, Montgomery and Metro staff spent nearly two months targeting Aug. 23 as the opening date.

In a June 29 e-mail to Metro and county officials, Metro external relations director Lisa Schooley said that although tasks and timelines were subject to change, “the plan’s timeline is currently built assuming an opening date of August 23.”

And the June 8 agenda of a public-relations group working on the transit center rollout said: “As of this date, there are 76 days until the opening,” which would mean Aug. 23.

Requa said Wednesday that Aug. 23 was considered as a possible date because it coincided with a planned system-wide change of bus schedules. That would have made it easier, he said, to integrate new arrival and departure times for buses into the system.

But Requa said it was never a firm opening date. He said the WMATA board — which next meets in September — will have to vote that the center is ready to open before any bus service can begin there.

“It was premature,” Requa said. “People may have gotten ahead of each other.”

Until this week, the saga of the $140 million transit center, beset by design and construction flaws, appeared to be winding down. County officials reported that final repairs to cracked road surfaces and support beams were complete. On Monday, Metro buses rolled through the structure on practice runs.

But Firestine and Montgomery’s general services director, David Dise, the county’s lead official on the job, said that they began to get a different message in a July 10 phone conversation with Requa.

They said Requa seemed to be unaware of the work his operations and marketing staff had been doing around the Aug. 23 date.

Requa informed them, they said, that the transit agency would be rejecting the county’s “punchlist,” a final list of construction items that were completed.

On July 21, Requa sent the county a series of proposed changes to the original 2008 project agreement between the county and transit agency.

So between June and September, there are no meetings of the Metro board? And nobody thought of this while they were focused on an August 23 opening date? Brilliant. Wow.

The request for a $15 million escrow fund was not unreasonable, in my view. But asking the County to give up its 25% interest in development rights around the station was preposterous and not related to the problems with the transit center. And demanding the County provide a 100% tax abatement on any development for ten years brought the Metro effort into the realm of the criminal shakedown. A clumsy, ill-conceived plot worthy of a bad organized crime screenplay.

And it’s stupid. Metro has been underfunded for years, as a result of the inaction of the three states that, with the federal government, pay for Metro. There’s never been a dedicated Metro funding stream in Maryland. The agency was on the moral high ground to at least some degree in this matter. At least in MoCo, that ground was thrown away in what appears to be an 11th hour hare-brained scheme to shake down the county over the transit center, after months of cooperation toward a mutually-agreed opening date. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Holding Out For A Hero

Roll Call has an article today noting that while the only two candidates in the Senate race as yet are from the D.C. suburbs, two different Baltimore candidates continue to either express interest or draw intense speculation in a potential run.

First, Elijah Cummings. Roll Call doesn’t hold out much hope here.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings would change the game if he got into the race. The longtime Baltimore politician has a base of support there and statewide name recognition that would make him a contender.

Cummings, speaking briefly Tuesday on Capitol Hill, said he would not answer questions about a possible Senate bid and declined to disclose any timetable on a decision.
“Congressman Cummings is still considering how he can best serve,” Mike Christianson, a Cummings spokesman, told CQ Roll Call in an email.
But one source close to Cummings said Monday it did not appear to him that Cummings was building the campaign apparatus one might need if planning a Senate run, including efforts to strengthen his fundraising and hire key staff members.
“He doesn’t seem to be taking the steps that one would be taking if one were to run,” the Democratic operative said.

I think this analysis is right on. I think there was a time when Cummings was on the verge of getting in – but that was April, and the unrest in Baltimore made him change his mind. I’ve heard nothing recently that would make me think Roll Call is off in its assessment.

Expressing some recent interest in the race has been Dutch Ruppersberger.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Cummings’ fellow Baltimorean, is considering a run, but he told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he would wait until September to make his decision.

“I like what I’m doing now, that’s why I didn’t want to run for governor in 2014,” he said.
Ruppersberger said he has encouraged Cummings to get in the race. Ruppersberger pointed to Cummings’ personal activism earlier this year on the streets of Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died from injuries while in police custody.
“Especially after the riots, he was out there and did a good job,” Ruppersberger said. “I think Elijah has the problem I have: We really like what we’re doing here.”

The key point, expressed previously by Ruppersberger, is the “waiting until September” part. I have heard more than once that Ruppersberger has agreed to defer to Cummings until then, but not longer. Assuming Cummings stays out, and further assuming that Dutch sees a path to victory, I think there’s a better than even money chance he gets in.

The question is whether there’s a path to victory. Roll Call notes the problem for a Baltimore candidate.

Part of the problem for potential Baltimore candidates such as Ruppersberger or Cummings is demographics. In the past decade, the population in the District’s suburbs has grown, while Baltimore’s has declined. According to Census Bureau estimates, Baltimore’s population is about 623,000, while the number in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, wrapped north and east around D.C., has grown to more than 2 million.

“Half the state is the Washington suburbs, and that media market doesn’t know us as well, just as they don’t know Chris and Donna in Baltimore,” Ruppersberger said.
Ruppersberger has more than $1.1 million in the bank, but said he recognized Van Hollen’s fundraising strength and the fact that the other two candidates are already well known in the state’s — and one of the country’s — most expensive media market.

Today’s news that Maggie McIntosh – former campaign manager and state director for Barbara Mikulski, and a powerful Baltimore delegate for over two decades now – will be endorsing Chris Van Hollen may well be a sign that Baltimore leaders are ready to recognize that this isn’t their year. Let’s wait and see who makes a move in the coming weeks and months.