In an interview with Matt Bai, a political columnist with Yahoo, President Obama took issue with Senator Elizabeth Warren's claim that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade deals that could be allowed special rules under fast-track status, could unravel financial regulation put in place by Dodd-Frank.
"'Think about the logic of that, right?' he went on. 'The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2007, 2008. And then I sign a provision that would unravel it?'
“'I’d have to be pretty stupid,' Obama said, laughing."
President Obama may not want to rest the case for TPP on the strength of his status as a foe of Wall Street. He has not always been the strongest proponent of financial reform. Among other noteworthy items:
1) He has not sought the criminal prosecution of any executives at major banks for issuing or securitizing fraudulent mortgages, nor against executives at credit rating agencies for knowingly granting investment grade ratings to securities containing large numbers of improper or fraudulent mortgages;
3) He did nothing to push cram-down legislation in Congress, which would have required banks to write-down the value of some underwater mortgages to the current market value of the home;
4) He supported the stripping of the Franken Amendment from Dodd-Frank. This amendment (which was approved by a large bi-partisan majority in the Senate) would have eliminated the conflict of interest faced by bond-rating agencies by having the Securities and Exchange Commission, rather than the issuer, pick the rating agency. (The line from opponents was that the SEC might send over unqualified analysts. Think about that one for a while.)
5) He only began to push the Volcker rule as a political move to shore up support the day after Republican Scott Brown won an upset election for a Senate seat in Massachusetts.
6) The administration had to be pushed by labor and consumer groups to keep a strong and independent consumer financial protection bureau in Dodd-Frank.
If President Obama wants to push the case for TPP he should probably rely on something other than his status as a foe of Wall Street.
It is worth noting that the fast-track legislation being requested by President Obama would extend for five years. This means that if a Republican is elected in 2016, they would be able to have future trade agreements approved on a straight up or down vote by a majority in Congress. If it is difficult to see how President Obama can assure Senator Warren, and other critics of fast-track, that a future Republican president would not use this power to weaken financial regulation, if they could not otherwise get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.