Proponents of Trade Promotion Authority legislation say built-in “safeguards” will allow Congress to protect American workers from the adverse impacts of immigration provisions in trade deals. But they know these safeguards are mere window dressing when a president refuses to be bound by the law and has latitude under a “living agreement” such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to change the deal without further congressional approval. That’s why the House must vote down TPA as passed by the Senate and ensure the Senate retains its constitutionally-enumerated advice and consent powers requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote on trade pacts.
TPA, as passed by the Senate, includes mechanisms that allow Congress to review the text of a trade agreement during negotiations and to participate in the negotiating process. But any participation in the process is irrelevant because a president doesn’t have to listen to congressional input. And if the historical record is any indication, President Obama won’t.
If Congress approves the TPP, this “living agreement” will enable President Obama to negotiate changes and open the guest worker floodgates. Granted, TPA has a provision that in theory would prohibit a trade pact from adding guest workers in a manner inconsistent with existing law but once adopted the pact supersedes existing law. And what if a president ignores existing law, as Obama has so often done, or re-interprets it, as he recently proposed with respect to L-1B guest workers? An international tribunal will judge whether the actions are legitimate, not a U.S. court and Congress will not be able to overturn it without the threats of sanctions from that tribunal.
TPA’s “safeguards” are supposed to limit a president to pursuing 150 trade objectives when negotiating a trade pact. But defining trade objectives means nothing to those who know how to parse words. Sure apples and oranges are different but why should a president abide by restrictions on apples when oranges have none? After all, they’re both fruit. Again, look at Obama’s record on “prosecutorial discretion.” He contrived mass amnesties out of a little-used provision that applied to individuals, not whole classes of people.
TPA has an “off switch” that would allow the Senate Finance Committee or House Ways & Means Committee to remove a trade deal from “fast track” procedures. But this “safeguard” is controlled by two people – the Chairs of those committees – who can be more easily influenced than the whole of Congress. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that these two Chairs – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. — are the primary congressional advocates of TPA and TPP.
TPA contains a provision that would allow Congress to invalidate a trade agreement provision after the fact if it was found to conflict with U.S. law. This supposedly would prevent an administration from implementing its radical agenda through a trade pact. But Senators who support that agenda can invalidate the invalidation mechanism by denying cloture on the Senate floor. And even if it passes Congress, a president can veto the measure or, as discussed above, an international tribunal can overrule it.
Roy explains here why NumbersUSA opposes the TPA. Prior to Senate passage, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., debunked TPA’s myths. More recently, Neil Seifring and Michael Hammond weighed in. I encourage you to read their contributions and get to work convincing rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats to oppose TPA. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House will take up TPA before the end of June.
VAN ESSER is the Manager, Member Services for NumbersUSA
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