Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, defended his decision to vote for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)—among other deals—during a Thursday interview with the Hugh Hewitt radio program.
“When we left off at break, we were talking about Hillary Clinton’s refusal to answer some questions about free trade,” Hewitt started his line of questioning with coming out of a commercial. “Let’s take that opportunity, then, to go and talk about free trade—TPA, TPP, Export-Import Bank. Sen. Cruz, for clarity’s sake, can you quickly give us an overview on where you are on those three issues, as there’s quite a lot of confusion among conservative voters as to where different people are and why on each of those three issues.”
“Sure,” Cruz responded. “There is a lot of confusion and, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation you can get on the Internet that people are confused, so let’s explain what each of those three are.”
Cruz, by saying that, was essentially making the exact same claim—blaming the Internet for what he argues is “misinformation”—as House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan made the claim on Fox News earlier on Thursday in response to Breitbart News reporting highlighted by the massively influential Drudge Report. Ryan, with whom Cruz pushed Obamatrade in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in late April—one that’s been used by Speaker John Boehner to try to rally support for Obamatrade—has been essentially discredited by various false statements he’s made throughout this process.
That Cruz would use the same talking points as him is interesting and probably disappointing to many conservatives. That Boehner is using Cruz to push Obamatrade is probably even more disappointing to most conservatives, and Cruz’s press operation hasn’t–over the past 48 hours, since Boehner ratcheted up his decision to use Cruz’s support for this to whip votes for it–given Breitbart News any comment in response to that revelation despite multiple opportunities to do so.
“TPA is Trade Promotion Authority, it’s also known as fast track,” Cruz continued in his answer on Hewitt’s program. “That is the process through which free trade agreements are negotiated. Historically, since FDR virtually every president has had fast track authority. What fast track provides is simply if a free trade agreement is negotiated, that Congress will vote on it up or down without amendments, and history has demonstrated for the last 80 years that the only way to get free trade agreements adopted is to have fast track. That if there is no fast track, free trade agreements do not end up being negotiated.”
Free trade agreements could be adopted by Congress after they’re negotiated by an administration without fast-track. In fact, President Obama could release publicly the text of the TPP, T-TIP or TiSA agreements—or any other agreements—right now and then come to Congress with his ideas, win them over and get them approved. If they were popular, it’d be easy. Of course, he’s choosing not to do that. But Cruz doubled down on that point again a moment later.
“TPA is what the Senate voted on recently,” Cruz continued. “I voted in favor of fast track because I support free trade. I think free trade benefits America. It creates jobs–opening markets to our farmers, to our ranchers, to our manufacturers, improves economic growth. In Texas alone, roughly 3 million jobs depend upon international trade. And if you support free trade, the only way history has shown free trade agreements get negotiated is through fast track.”
From there, Cruz aimed to separate TPA and TPP—but he didn’t mention the other, even more secretive trade agreements like T-TIP or TiSA, which would also be fast-tracked under TPA. TPP’s text is available for members of Congress to review in a secret room in the Capitol basement. Cruz went to review the text in early May, after he wrote the op-ed with Ryan pushing TPA and before he voted for TPA. It was a distinctly different position from his 2016 opponents Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both of whom voted for TPA but have continued to refuse to answer whether they read TPP text before voting for TPA.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is the only 2016 GOP presidential candidate who not only read TPP text before taking a concertedly clear public position on the matter, but also the only 2016 GOP presidential candidate in Congress who voted against the TPA.
“Now there is a second issue which has caused a great deal of confusion, and that is TPP,” Cruz said.
“Trans Pacific Partnership,” Hewitt interjected.
“Correct,” Cruz continued. “That is one specific trade deal that is currently being negotiated. It is separate from TPA. Congress has not voted on TPP, and there’s a great deal of concern about TPP. Now, I have not voted on TPP, and I haven’t decided if I will support it or not, because the negotiation isn’t complete, and I’m going to wait and review and see what the agreement is first before assessing if it would be beneficial or harmful.”