After defeating several key amendments offered by Republicans, the Senate voted 62 to 37 Friday night to pass the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which President Obama wants to give his branch of government greater control over trade negotiations.
Under TPA, Obama and the next president — over the next six years — would have the ability to negotiate trade deals without Congress making modifications or amendments. Congress only gets an up or down vote. In the past 40 years, no fast-track trade deals have ever been stopped by Congress, as Breitbart News earlier reported.
Only five Republicans joined Democrats, who opposed the legislation pushed by their party leader, in voting “no” on the TPA — which has been coined “Obamatrade.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) all voted against giving Obama unilateral power to negotiate trade deals.
Following the passage of the TPA last night, Cruz – who voted “yay” to give Obama fast-track trade authority, even though his immigration amendment was blocked – said TPA creates a “path for prosperity.”
“By passing Trade Promotion Authority, we create a path for trade agreements to reduce government-created barriers to prosperity. More economic growth will expand opportunity to those working to climb the economic ladder and achieve the American Dream,” Cruz said in a press release.
Ironically, this last week Cruz said: “Congress must prohibit Obama from abusing TPA to change Immigration Law.” On May 13th, Cruz filed an amendment that would “lock in assurances that this legislation cannot be used to change federal immigration law.”
In a press release after he filed his amendment, Cruz said he supports free trade, “but I cannot support legislation that would allow the President to once again circumvent Congress to enact his own immigration laws. Since the Obama Administration has emphatically argued that TPA will not affect immigration, it should support this amendment, which makes that promise explicit.”
Cruz wanted the Obama Administration to put in writing that there wasn’t a provision within the legislation that would allow President Obama to make any changes to immigration laws without Congressional approval.
However, Cruz’s amendment was blocked from a vote. Still, he decided to vote in favor of TPA anyway.
Breitbart News reached out to Amanda Carpenter, the spokesperson for Cruz, for comment regarding his vote but has not received a response.
Sessions had a similar amendment to Cruz’s, although Sessions’ amendment also pertained to temporary travel and guest worker laws.
Like Cruz’s amendment, Sessions’ amendment was blocked. However, unlike Cruz, Sessions voted no on final passage of TPA.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) offered another key amendment requiring all trade agreements to stand up to currency manipulation by any trading partners with the United States; however, it was voted down by mostly Republicans and a handful of Democrats.
Earlier the Senate overwhelmingly passed a different amendment offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), that also addressed currency manipulation. According to Roll Call, the Hatch-Whyden currency manipulation amendment “would direct the administration to establish accountability through “enforceable rules” and other means to “address” exchange rate manipulation.”
Roll Call reported that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said Friday “that his hope and expectation is the Portman/Stabenow amendment would not pass, noting the problems it creates for the House and White House.”
“For those of us who want to see a TPA pass, it’s an additional burden that we really don’t need,” said Cornyn.
Another provision caused a disagreement over the future of the TPA – the Trade Adjustment Assistance – which Democrats had pushed for in order to bring TPA to a vote. Democrats wanted Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which is a government program that provides trade adjustment assistance — taxpayer money — to give to displaced workers who may lose jobs as a result of a trade agreement.
The Heritage Foundation has opposed Trade Adjustment Assistance. Terry Miller, Director for the Center for Trade and Economics there, tells Breitbart News that in the past TAA has been shown to be “ineffective.” Miller said he is very skeptical about the TAA. “It’s really unfortunate that these have been packaged together,” Miller said to Breitbart News.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – a huge proponent of the fast-track legislation – offered an amendment to erase the TAA provision. Flake’s amendment was voted down. It was the last amendment before the final cloture vote, which cut off further debate.
In the end, the vote count only changed by one senator compared to the initial cloture vote. Lee voted for the previous cloture vote, but against the final cloture vote. “I am a big believer in free trade,” Lee said. “But I have been very clear from the beginning of this debate that I could not vote for Trade Promotion Authority if the wasteful and ineffectual Trade Adjustment Assistance program was attached.”