The U.S. Senate—often called the world’s most deliberative legislative body—will operate in a closed debate process with no amendments whatsoever allowed to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) part of Obamatrade this week, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell engages in the exact same tactics he attacked his predecessor Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) for engaging.
On Tuesday, any Republican senators who vote with McConnell in favor of cloture on TPA—which would provide the president fast-track authority to speed through Congress with little to no oversight at least three highly secretive trade deals—will be surrendering their right to criticize Reid’s handling of the Senate last Congress. That’s because McConnell literally will use Reid’s choice of tactics to block any amendments to the version of TPA that passed the House: the Senate leader will fill the amendment tree so as to keep any other U.S. senators from offering any amendments.
“Senator McConnell’s willingness to employ the same tactics he and other Republicans decried as amounting to a ‘dictatorship’ reveals the emptiness of his rhetoric and vision for the Senate,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Breitbart News when McConnell filled the amendment tree.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), in an interview with Breitbart News last week, criticized McConnell—who is his colleague from Kentucky and has endorsed his presidential candidacy—for closing the process the exact same way Reid used to.
“I think we need to be straightforward about what’s happening—it’s a little bit confusing all the procedural maneuvers they’re using to take this through,” Paul said when asked to react to the House passing TPA after rejecting the larger Obamatrade plan beforehand, and what he expects to happen in the Senate. “I guess when it comes back to the Senate they’ll split the vote [breaking TPA off from Trade Adjustment Assistance] again and do TPA and TAA separate. But it is a little bit complicated, the separation and rejoining and how they’re going to do this. I haven’t had a chance to look at all the parliamentary procedures of what they’re going to do.”
“My main objection [to Obamatrade] is that we give the president too much power already, and then my concern is about the separation of power and checks and balances,” Paul added.
If we give up our right to amend the treaty and we give up our right to filibuster it, we’ve made this sort of fast-track sort of specially greased legislation that doesn’t have the normal checks and balances. I don’t know if that’s a good idea because they’ve been very secretive about the treaty including making it classified and difficult to read.
When asked specifically about McConnell engaging in the exact same tactic—filling the amendment tree to block any open debate and amendments, shutting down deliberation—that Paul once accused Reid of acting like a “dictator” for, Paul unloaded on McConnell.
“In general, I like more debate and a more open amendment process,” Paul said.
I have a couple of amendments or small bills that I’ve been trying to get votes on for years now—Audit The Fed passed the House with 333 votes and I still have had trouble getting a vote on that. We have a bill that would give civil servants bonuses for cutting waste and that also I’ve been trying to get a vote on and haven’t been able to get a vote on it. There’s several things an open process would be helpful to. We’ll see what happens.
McConnell’s aggressive iron-fisted tactics could backfire.
To pass TPA on the cloture vote on Tuesday, he needs several senators who voted for cloture last go-around when it passed 62-38. When that vote happened, several conservatives including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and more voted for cloture. Several other establishment Republicans such as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Burr (R-NC) and more voted for cloture despite concerns and objections that were addressed by various amendments.
Cruz, particularly, has taken serious credibility hits with conservatives on the campaign trail after working alongside House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to push Obamatrade. And as someone who’s been as aggressive as Paul or anyone else in criticizing Democrats like Reid when they were in leadership for engaging in the exact same tactics McConnell is now using, it’ll be hard for Cruz to explain a vote for cloture when McConnell is acting like this.
“The Senate majority voted to allow Sen. Reid to ignore all Republican amendments,” Cruz said back when Reid used the tactic McConnell is now using in late 2013 to push through the budget deal from Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), then the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. “Over and over, this is the roughshod style of leadership that characterizes this Senate and underscores why Washington badly needs to listen to the people.”
That Ryan-Murray budget cut veterans’ benefits in order to continue paying for illegal aliens to have access to various IRS tax credits, as Breitbart News exposed at the time, and Ryan severely damaged his credibility during that process. Even though he got the bill passed through the House after a bruising process when everyone thought Obamatrade was dead, Ryan’s credibility is now pretty much entirely gone after doing this—meaning Cruz is in serious trouble politically if he keeps standing with this deal and votes for cloture on Tuesday after everything that’s happened. Nonetheless, Cruz is still expected to vote for cloture on TPA but may vote against it because of all of this.
He’s not the only one who may vote against TPA on cloture on Tuesday. Vitter or Inhofe may oppose it because of the climate change or immigration provisions that have been discovered inside various trade deals that TPA would fast-track. Of course, if TPA passes the Senate, that means it goes to the president—giving Obama all sorts of new powers. With those powers, at least three highly secretive trade deals Obama has been negotiating without the input of Congress or the public would almost certainly be approved—no deal ever started on fast-track in the history of fast track has ever been stopped.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), one such deal with a dozen Pacific Rim nations, is littered with leftist and progressive climate change provisions. None of those details were available to the public—or to senators—when the Senate voted on this a few weeks ago. And since only a handful of senators admitted publicly they went to go read the classified TPP text, which is currently being held in a secret room in the Capitol basement and only available to members of Congress and some of their staffers with high enough security clearances only when the member is personally there, it’s understandable if senators didn’t know they’d be voting to grease the skids for a progressive climate change agenda by voting for TPA.
Another secretive trade deal that TPA would ensure congressional approval of is the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deal that’s also in the works, is completely unavailable to even lawmakers and their staffs in even a classified setting. TiSA would, however, according to documents that leaked to the WikiLeaks website, vastly expand the executive branch’s immigration power and may constrain the Congress of the United States when it comes to setting American immigration policy.
What’s more, without amendments, another discovery about Obamatrade that has been uncovered since the Senate vote—the fact that voting for TPA will ensure the TPP, which will certainly pass afterwards, eventually allows currency manipulator China into the deal, therefore empowering the Chinese—could murky the waters around the votes of Graham, Burr, Portman and Tillis. Each of them previously expressed concerns about China, and thanks now to McConnell’s filling of the amendment tree, the deal will not stop China but empower it.
Then, with regard to Rubio, after making Obamatrade a centerpiece of his campaign during a Council on Foreign Relations speech, he turned around and has refused to admit whether he even read the TPP text before voting for TPA to fast track it. If Rubio doesn’t want to take a significant hit politically, he might vote against fast track authority greasing the skids for the trade deals on Tuesday because it’s very likely he still hasn’t been to the secret room to read the text of what it is he’s voting for.
All of this stuff that’s been discovered since the Senate vote should be enough, Paul said in his Breitbart News interview, for Republicans who may have previously voted for Obamatrade to have woken up now to understand why they should oppose it at this time.
“I think TPA, Trade Promotion Authority, ought to be on a case-by-case basis instead of doing it for six years,” Paul said.
We should take each treaty and decide whether or not you want to have amendments or want to ratify it. Part of the thing that motivated me against it and got me to come down against the TPA is the process, the classified nature. If you can’t take it out and read it, if journalists can’t read it, if scholars can’t read it, you really can’t get analysis. Sometimes it’s sort of government speak and when you read through a thousand pages of government speak—unless you speak government—it’s hard to figure out exactly what things are in the bills. So we need a lot more time, time in the office and for outside groups that we read their analysis as well. I’m still very skeptical about anything they want to keep classified.