A late Friday vote in the Senate gave President Obama a hard won victory in advancing “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority in his administrations efforts to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement (TTIP). The bill will now face a very difficult battle in the House of Representatives, where opponents of the bill–including staunchly Conservative Republicans and most Democrats–will be fighting to scupper Fast Track as a first step in killing both trade pacts altogether.
“This is an important bill, likely the most important bill we will pass this year. It’s important to President Obama,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and primary author of the bill, said at the close of debate.
On the final roll call, five Republicans joined 32 Democrats in opposing TPA — an odd collection that ranged from Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and his top two lieutenants to staunch conservatives such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “Congress is forgetting its duty: to improve jobs and wages for Americans,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), one of the most conservative senators, said in a statement.
An interesting point to note: 55 members of the House of Representatives were in the House of Representatives in 1993 when NAFTA was debated. Yes, ~8% of the House have been in power for 22 years or longer.
In response to the passage of the Fast Track bill Senator Sessions released a lengthy statement via his website blasting the TPP:
I asked the President how his fast-tracked proposals would impact jobs, wages, and trade deficits. He would not answer. The bill’s promoters also refused to answer when asked whether their proposal would reduce net manufacturing jobs in the United States. That is because they know it will. Like the South Korean trade deal—which doubled our trade deficit after promises of a trade renaissance—this proposal will widen further our trade deficits and eliminate jobs.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership opens our markets to foreign imports, but allows foreign countries to continue closing their market to ours.
Our country has not been engaged in reciprocal free trade but, as the Chairman Emeritus of Nucor Steel explained, “the enablement of foreign mercantilism” and “unilateral trade disarmament.” We have allowed state-dominated and mercantilist trading partners to maintain their varied and elaborate non-tariff barriers, exporting their unemployment to our shores.
Stubbornly, our political elites have treated trade as a matter of religion. To them, there is no such thing as a bad deal. They know American workers lose jobs when we allow trading partners to cheat. But they insist it is all for the greater good. This is why the American worker keeps ending up on the losing end.
In addition to Sessions, only four other Senate Republicans voted against the Fast Track Bill: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). It is worth noting that the textile and steel industries of the state of Alabama were some of the most savaged by NAFTA and the state economy only began to recover in recent years due to the influx of Automotive and Aerospace manufacturing.
Friday morning conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, when pressed as to which 2016 Presidential hopefuls she supported, declined to endorse any but said: “I wish that Sen. Jeff Sessions would run for president, because I would sign up in a heartbeat.”
Is it time to start a “Draft Sessions” and #RunSessionsRun campaign?
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