In the wake of revelations that technically a vote for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) would be a vote to grant the executive branch massively-expanded immigration powers, the Washington establishment cooked up an elaborate ruse to try to save the flailing Obamatrade bill.
This comes as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) re-emerges as a central figure pushing Obamatrade. His polling numbers in early states remain stagnant and Obamatrade opponents like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Dr. Ben Carson, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are gaining traction on the 2016 trail.
Earlier on Wednesday, leading up to the House Rules Committee hearing where chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) is teaming up with House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Breitbart News exposed the expansive immigration provisions inside the Obamatrade package. Specifically, secret Obamatrade documents leaked to Wikileaks show that there are provisions contained within draft Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) text that would massively expand President Obama’s immigration authority when it comes to immigration matters.
“The existence of these ten pages on immigration in the Trade and Services Agreement make it absolutely clear in my mind that the administration is negotiating immigration – and for them to say they are not – they have a lot of explaining to do based on the actual text in this agreement,” NumbersUSA director of government relations Rosemary Jenks told Breitbart News.
So, in response and in conjunction with chief Obamatrade proponent Ryan, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced an amendment that wouldn’t actually fix the problem. King’s amendment, which would be to a different bill than Trade Promotion Authority, would push language into the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act — an entirely different piece of legislation.
“I understand the concerns you have expressed about including in U.S. free trade agreements any provisions related to U.S. immigration laws, particularly any provision obligating the United States to grant access or expand access to visas issued under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 (a)(15)),” Ryan wrote to King about the agreement to put forward the King amendment. “In acknowledgement of these concerns, I would like to convey that when the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015 is considered in the House, I intend to seek adoption of the text of Senate Amendment 1385, offered by Senator Hatch and Senator Cruz when the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act was considered by the Senate last month, as well as the language you propose in your letter, to ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. immigration laws.”
“Specifically, the effect of this amendment would be that any provision in new trade agreements that would obligate the United States to grant or expand access to visas would not be consistent with the negotiating objectives in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act,” Ryan continued. “As such, if the administration includes any such provision in a trade agreement, I would support moving a Consultation and Compliance Resolution under that Act through the Ways & Means Committee.”
What Ryan is saying here — in response to concerns King raised about immigration provisions in trade agreements being fast-tracked under TPA in a previous letter to Ryan — is that Ryan will include an amendment in future legislation, not the current TPA. That means that the current TPA, if it passes the House, would still allow the immigration provisions to move forward. It also means the U.S. Senate could reject the amendment on the future legislation — which it probably will — and that if the Senate somehow does pass the legislation, Obama could veto it.
That didn’t stop King from claiming — inaccurately — in a press release that this compromise with Ryan would fix the issue.
“I am glad to have worked with Chairman Paul Ryan on my added language to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA),” King said in his release announcing his deal with Ryan:
“My limitation language says: ‘To ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to the immigration laws of the United States or obligate the United States to grant access or expand access to visas issued under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15). My amendment that passed in CJS appropriations states: ‘None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to negotiate or finalize a trade agreement that includes provisions relating to visas issued under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)).’ This amendment is the foundation of my language that will be enrolled with TPA. My language tells the executive branch that they cannot negotiate changes in our immigration laws or use visa programs as a negotiating tool. Further, my language keeps immigration out of all future trade agreements negotiated under TPA. I am confident this has improved TPA and it gets me to a yes on the final bill.”
A King aide told Breitbart News later that if his amendment to the future legislation is to pass the House, Senate and be signed by the president, it would amend the TPA at that point — but didn’t explain how or why King thinks both chambers of Congress would take the amendment and why King seems to think Obama would sign it.
Glyn Wright, the executive director of Eagle Forum, told Breitbart News in an email that this whole ruse wouldn’t fix anything:
“Although American voters gave Republicans the majority in Congress to stop Obama, Republican Leadership is desperate to accomplish his top priority — the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There are a variety of concerns with the process and the policy of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and Leadership is currently twisting arms and making promises in a desperate attempt to limit defections of conservative Members who have legitimate concerns. Unfortunately, several Members have traded their votes for meaningless, pie-in-the-sky promises on issues like immigration, currency manipulation, anti-dumping provisions. These are legitimate issues that should be addressed in the actual text of TPA with enforceable provisions, not currently included in TPA. Instead, Chairman Ryan is promising that their concerns will be addressed in a future customs bill — the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act. The customs bill is completely separate from TPA, and even if these concerns are addressed, it will be conferenced with the Senate where conservatives are unlikely to win. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that President Obama will sign the customs bill, even if it passes the House and the Senate. These promises will only serve to garner TPA enough votes; they will not affect the final agreement. Pew Research Center recently released a poll stating 75 percent of the Republican-leaning public want Republicans in Congress to challenge Obama more often. Instead, Republican Leadership is intent on running roughshod over conservative principles to achieve President Obama’s top priority in the name of free trade.”
What’s more, during the House Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday, Ryan — who promoted, along with Chairman Pete Sessions, the King immigration “solution” with Ryan — confirmed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been intricately involved in pushing this ruse. Cruz, who supported Obamatrade but hasn’t loudly been pushing for it since it passed the Senate, is running for president—and his involvement here is extraordinarily significant. In fact, back during the Senate fight, Cruz offered an immigration amendment nearly identical to this King one — one that like this one, wouldn’t solve the problem, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) offered his own amendment that would have actually solved the problem. GOP leadership in the Senate blocked Sessions’ amendment, and Cruz’s, claiming it was a poison pill.
Cruz, of course, has previously praised this amendment that didn’t really fix the problem back in the Senate side of things. In fact, Cruz’s office—now several weeks later—still hasn’t answered detailed questions about the amendment from Breitbart News. But he did issue a statement supportive of it.
“The Obama Administration has repeatedly assured Members of Congress that there is nothing in the Trade Act of 2015 that would allow the President to unilaterally make changes to federal immigration laws,” Cruz said then. “I agree, and we should put it in writing and make it binding law. I am a strong supporter of 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.”
Under questioning from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), who is opposed to Obamatrade as he confirmed to Breitbart News weeks ago, Ryan admitted that Cruz was intricately involved in this whole thing.
“Chairman Ryan, if I could get just a little bit more clarification about—when you spoke initially about immigration, you said there was language from an amendment from Mr. King that you were adding?” Burgess asked.
“Yes,” Ryan said.
“Can you enlighten me as to what that would be?” Burgess asked.
“Yeah, so I’m pulling the text up right now,” Ryan said. “We had a concern by the Senator from Texas, Sen. Cruz has an amendment which we agreed to to make sure it was clear that the U.S. could not place in a trade agreement a proposal to change U.S. immigration law—increase visas for this, open visas for that, change visas, anything dealing with immigration changes. Mr. King looked at that language and thought it could be improved upon to just guarantee and make sure that under TPA the administration could not bring any change to U.S. immigration law in a trade agreement. That’s the intent of the Cruz amendment, that’s our intent, but we were more than happy to make it explicitly clear. Mr. [Pete] Sessions engaged with us on this as well to make sure that it’s very clear that if Americans are going to change immigration law then Congress has got to do it. We could go on about the executive orders, but Congress does it—regular order—it can’t be in a trade agreement.”
After Ryan cited the specific text of the King amendment, Burgess followed up: “Let me just tell you my concern. It comes up from time looking at the TPP agreement, as we’re allowed to do now in a classified setting. I’m not sure I understand everything I’m reading when I read it, and I’ve got to be careful because I don’t want to say what I’ve read in a classified setting.”
Ryan cut him off.
“I think I know where you’re going — other countries might make a request,” Ryan interjected. “This says we can’t agree to it. But other countries might make a request for more visas for this or more visas for that. What we’re saying is it doesn’t matter. America, our trade negotiators, cannot honor those requests, cannot agree to those requests in a trade agreement.”
Burgess started asking his question again.
“Again, and I might not be the smartest person reading the language, but it looked to me like certain executives — that there would be loopholes that could be exploited — and that this administration, as you know very well, is a master at exploiting loopholes,” Burgess asked Ryan.
“Trust me,” Ryan attempted to answer. “This is why I took a belt-and-suspenders approach to this, which is — and this is why we worked with Mr. Sessions and Mr. King — for that very concern which is there are those who would like to us change, I think the prior president’s administration tried to move L visas in the Chilean agreement if I’m not mistaken. No. What we’ve said is, no. Zero. No. You cannot do this.”
Of course, everything Ryan said — as Glyn Wright of Eagle Forum noted previously — was untrue. But more importantly, all the politicians in Washington were happy as Pete Sessions wrapped that segment of the Rules Committee hearing by saying Ryan has done “an outstanding job” putting together phony fixes to real problems.
Pete Sessions’ office, despite a claim during the hearing from the chairman that he would be transparent about this matter, has explicitly refused to answer questions from Breitbart News about this matter. Cruz’s team hasn’t responded to a request for comment on record either.