There’s a civil war inside the Democrat Party over trade, as Politico reports. The impacts are even being noticed back here in Montana. Plus, Common Core testing hits a snag in Montana. Motl goes before the state senate. And- Reid, Tester, Scandal…not to be a Debbie Downer but…
Those stories and much more are in the Weekend Wrap.
But first, is the federal government now using bats to halt oil, gas, and timber development?
The Washington Times: Obama bat protection decried as ploy to thwart oil and gas extraction, logging
Two weeks ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern long-eared bat as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. It’s no secret that the bat’s numbers have plummeted, and it’s no secret why: A fungus known as white-nose syndrome has decimated as much as 99 percent of the population in the Northeast.
But for a three-inch creature with a nine-inch wingspan, the brown bat boasts an enormous footprint: While concentrated in New England, the species is found in 37 states as far west as Wyoming and as far south as Georgia. That includes the timber counties of Michigan and the rich Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania that has fueled the state’s fracking boom.
The most important trade bill in a decade has pitted Harry Reid against President Barack Obama. Liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro against moderate Democrat Ron Kind. Labor unions against pro-business Democrats. And Elizabeth Warren against virtually everyone who supports a landmark piece of legislation that would allow the president to close what could be the biggest free-trade deal in history.
A deal reached by lawmakers would pave the way for President Barack Obama to conclude a major Pacific trade agreement with rare Republican help, but the measure is triggering a fight within a Democratic Party increasingly opposed to liberalizing trade. The bill, introduced in Congress yesterday, is a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, and is meant to ease passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a pact with Japan, Canada, Vietnam and other Pacific nations that the White House sees as central to the president’s economic legacy. In recent weeks, administration officials feared they may have the outright support of fewer than a dozen House Democrats. William Mauldin reports.
The debate is also pitting labor unions and environmentalists against business and ag groups back here in Montana.
In fact, The Montana Chamber of Commerce sent this press release out Friday: Montana Chamber Supports Increased Trade
The Montana Chamber of Commerce and it’s subsidiary, the Montana Manufacturing Council are joining the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and others to access new dollars for the American economy. Manufacturers are rallying behind bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation introduced today by US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (OR) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (WI).
The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 would renew TPA, enabling the United States to conclude and implement comprehensive, market-opening trade agreements that will level the playing field abroad and strengthen the global competitiveness of manufacturers across the country. TPA was last renewed in 2002 and expired in 2007.
“The Montana Chamber has long supported TPA, regardless of the President,” said Webb Brown, Montana Chamber President/CEO. “TPA results in getting trade agreements to the table, rather than bogged down in politics. Congress (and the State Chamber) will still be able to weigh in on each proposed agreement. We ask Sens. Tester and Daines and Rep. Zinke to help us bring new dollars to Montana by passing TPA.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, representing the cattle industry, also fired off a message in support of TPA:
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced Trade Promotion Authority legislation, which establishes concrete rules for international trade negotiations that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Chugwater, Wyo. cattleman Philip Ellis urged Congress to act swiftly to pass this important legislation.
“2014 was the largest year we’ve ever seen for U.S. beef exports, with over $7 billion in total sales,” said Ellis. “It is critical for our government to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, to ensure our beef exports remain competitive across the world. TPA assures the President and Congress will negotiate present and future trade agreements with common objectives and the understanding that any agreement will receive an up or down vote when presented to Congress.”
Past free trade agreements negotiated under TPA have showed tremendous success for U.S. beef exports. The Korea-U.S. FTA will eliminate a 40 percent tariff rate, Columbia-U.S. FTA will eliminate an 80 percent tariff, Panama-U.S. FTA will eliminate a 30 percent tariffs, and the Dominican Republic-Central America-U.S. FTA will eliminate a 15-40 percent tariff; all over the course of 15 years. Currently, the U.S. exports over $1 billion in beef and variety meats to these markets, with greater opportunity as those tariffs continue to drop.
“The U.S. market is one of the most open markets in the world,” said Ellis. “The only way for us to level the playing field is to negotiate increased market access and tariff elimination through free trade agreements. As a cow/calf producer, the increased trade through these agreements adds value to my cattle and my bottom line. This is not only important for our families, but profitability now, sets the tone for future generations of cattlemen and women. I urge Congress to quickly pass TPA to give our negotiators the credibility needed to move forward on pending free trade agreements.”
The AFL-CIO, though, was sending out messages similar to the environmental lobby via the #MTPol Twitter feed:
— Montana AFL-CIO (@MTaflcio) April 16, 2015
A series of technological difficulties prompted Montana officials on Wednesday to declare that statewide Common Core-aligned tests will be voluntary this year—the latest blow to the rollout of such tests across the country.
“We were listening to the field [of school leaders], and the field is very frustrated with the glitches happening,” said Denise Juneau, superintendent of the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
With about 145,000 students in its elementary and secondary systems, Montana had planned this spring to test about 77,000 students in grades three through eight, as well as in 11th grade, with exams from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
The consortium is one of two that received federal dollars to create tests linked to the Common Core State Standards, the benchmarks in math and reading adopted by more than 40 states.
How’s this for Throwback Thursday? Via Fox News First
Back in the 1850s Alaskans sold their state’s bountiful fresh water to California, albeit in frozen form, and they’re about to do it again. California’s persistent drought has reached dangerous levels, and as summer looms closer residents fear the combination of intense heat and restricted water use. The Anchorage Daily News reports that an Alaska company that bulk packages water from a local lake has secured contracts to ship its product to customers in California. The problem is California doesn’t have the ability to take in water from vessels so the company is contemplating loading the water into containers and shipping it that way. Kind of like they used to do. How’s that for a #TBT?
Also from Fox News First on Thursday: IRAN BILL A ‘BRUISING RETREAT’ FOR OBAMA
NYT: “Mr. Obama’s abrupt decision to sign a compromise version of legislation on Iran that he had previously vowed to veto was a bruising retreat in his larger campaign to act without Congress’s getting in his way. In this case, partisanship gave way to rare consensus on Capitol Hill: Both sides agreed that he was wrong to cut them out. The White House tried to make the best of the setback, arguing that the bipartisan bill was less objectionable than the initial draft. But the president’s concession in the face of potentially veto-proof majorities underscored that even his fellow Democrats believed he had overreached in trying to operate on his own. And it suggested that he may be approaching the outer boundaries of his authority with 21 months left in office.”
Back in the Montana Legislature, left-wing activist Jonathan Motl’s confirmation for Commissioner of Political Practices will go before the state senate on Monday. I imagine some of the moderate Republicans who were spared from a negative ruling on their campaign complaints will think they have a friend in Motl…but they can rest assured that Motl simply spared them in hopes that they would advance his confirmation for CoPP. Once he is confirmed, the knives will be out for anyone with an R behind their name. (Heck, Bullock even vetoed bills that came from the moderate Republicans…why would Motl be any different?)
A hearing has been scheduled for Monday on the confirmation of Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl.
The hearing will be at Monday at 3 p.m. in Room 335 before the Senate State Administration Committee that she chairs.
— Aaron Flint (@aaronflint) April 17, 2015
@heatherwilsonmt a Debbie Downer would’ve been me mocking your Hillary/Chipotle tweet, and the fact that a multi-millionaire can’t tip. Ha
— Aaron Flint (@aaronflint) April 17, 2015