Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)—an opponent of the secretive Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track the Pacific Rim trade deal Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—went inside the secret room inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning to read the TPP text and told Breitbart News exclusively afterwards that he believes President Barack Obama should make it public now.
The deal’s text is kept in a room behind double doors that each have signs: “No Public Or Media Beyond This Point.”
“It’s done like you’re going in to read a classified briefing though it’s not actually ‘classified.’ It’s called ‘confidential,’” Paul said in an interview with Breitbart News outside the room after reading it. Paul and his legal staff spent about 45 minutes in the room reading the deal’s text.
“I think the staff signed an agreement [which didn’t include a non-disclosure]—they signed in, it’s a normal procedure,” he explained. “But I wasn’t required to sign in.”
When asked for some of the details that are inside the TPP agreement, Paul said he’s not allowed to tell us that. But he did say the secret trade deal that his Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, wants to rush through the Senate is about 800 pages long. He added he plans to seek additional information from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office—including a briefing from them—and suspects that the text he read isn’t even the final version of the deal.
“I think I am not supposed to reveal the details of it, but I can tell you it was about 800 pages long,” Paul said.
I think while we’ve gotten at least some headway in understanding what’s in it, I think it raises more questions that will require more research to fully understand what’s in it. We’re going to pursue that with someone from the U.S. Trade Representative—we’re going to pursue more information from them. Some of the questions are whether we’re seeing the final agreement or this is in the interim agreement before the final agreement. That’s a question we still have. I have a feeling that what we’re seeing is a work product, not a final.
Paul said he thinks the “secretive” process hurts the “cause” of TPA and TPP advocates, and is calling on the Obama administration to publicly release the deal’s details before future votes on the matter in the U.S. Senate.
“The thing is is that I think it actually hurts their cause by making it so secretive—while I can’t discuss the details of what was in there because of them calling it secret, I didn’t see anything that I didn’t think couldn’t be made public with a problem,” Paul said. “If so, I’m missing something because we read through 800 pages of it and we didn’t see anything that I couldn’t conclude couldn’t be made public.”
Paul said he thinks the secretive process makes it look like the government has “something to hide” and that he thinks if Obama opened up the process it’d make it easier for several Senators—and the American people—to truly understand what it is they’re voting on.
“I think it would make a difference for some folks, myself included, if they were to make it less secret because they think that really to vote on things that there’s a suspicion among the American public that if someone is making something secret they’ve got something to hide—particularly from the government’s point of view—so I’d like to see the process opened up,” Paul said.
Paul, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, stands alongside most of the rest of the field in opposition to Obamatrade. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina compared the secretive process to Obamacare’s passage in the early days of this president’s administration. Dr. Ben Carson also called for more transparency, as did Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is concerned with the deal’s impacts on American workers.
On the other side, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are in favor of the deal—even though it’s unclear if either has, like Paul now has, visited the secret room to read the text. Both could. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry are also in favor of the deal, but wouldn’t be allowed through the doors to read it.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the emerging conservative kingmaker and the leading intellectual conservative in Congress, has made an identical call to what Paul has for more transparency from the Obama administration.
Sessions, in a “critical alert” his office issued publicly and to other members on Capitol Hill before the recently-failed votes to begin debate on TPA fast track authority, listed out five “questions the White House will not answer.”
The questions the White House is refusing to be transparent about, Sessions noted, are: “Will it increase or reduce the trade deficit, and by how much? Will it increase or reduce employment and wages, and by how much? Will you make the “living agreement” section public and explain fully its implications? Will China be added to the TPP? Will you pledge not to issue any executive actions, or enter into any future agreements, impacting the flow of foreign workers into the United States?”