Despite enormous pressure from the White House, both of Vermont's U.S. senators say they will vote against a plan to give President Obama streamlined authority to negotiate a new trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Senate is expected to vote this week on legislation that gives the president so called "fast track" authority to enter into a new trade agreement with more than a dozen countries in Asia and Latin America.
If the president gets this authority, Congress will not be able to amend the trade deal in any way. Instead, it will simply hold an up or down vote on the proposed plan.
Many of the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have not been publicly released and members of Congress must visit a secure room in the basement of the Capitol Building if they want to review an outline of the deal.
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's disappointed that the process has not been transparent. He says there's no way that he'll give the president full power to negotiate a new trade agreement under these circumstances. "I'm not about to vote for something when I have no idea what's in it,” he says. “Nobody else has any idea of what's in it, so I'm not going to vote for fast track. If they want to bring up an agreement let us have a real debate on it, let us know what's in it whether it is valid or not."
Sen. Bernie Sanders says he opposes the trade deal because he's convinced that it will put American workers at a significant disadvantage. "The bottom line is that American workers should not be forced to compete against people who are making desperately low wages,” says Sanders. “That's not what a good trade policy is. Yes, it makes corporations much more profitable but it leads to lower wages in America and it leads to a loss of jobs."
The Senate's preliminary vote on the fast track bill could come as early as Tuesday.