Senator Jeff Sessions today warned congressional leaders against their plan to vote on President Barack Obama’s unpopular free-trade deal during the “lame-duck” session after voters cast their ballots in November 2016.
Those leaders include Rep. Paul Ryan, who has been one of the central architects of ObamaTrade — the slew of trade deals that includes theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), which is the special ‘fast-track’ power to ram them through Congress.
Ryan is expected to be elected House Speaker later this month.
Ryan must not “override the wishes” of the Republican voters — who have given the GOP its majority — by forcing the deal across the finish line in a lame duck session, Sessions warned.
So far, Ryan has been “the strongest advocate” for Obama’s unpopular trade agenda, Sessions explained on Friday’s program of The Laura Ingraham Show. “There’s a great danger to elect a Speaker of the House who is a leading advocate for two major issues today– trade and immigration– and [is] advocating against the wishes of the Republican voter,” Sessions said.
Sessions was asked about a recent Politico report, which said the up-or-down vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be delayed until the “lame duck” sessions after the 2016 election. That’s when many retiring and defeated legislators could vote for the business-backed deal without worrying about the voters’ response in a future election.
Delaying the TTP vote past the election makes it harder for populist frontrunner Donald Trump to campaign against the unpopular deal, and it also protects the deal’s business-fueled supporters, such as Sen. Marco Rubio. “I think it’s clearly out of a desire to help Rubio and hurt Donald Trump… [in a campaign] all of the provisions of the TPP can be combed through, sifted through… [but establishment Republicans] don’t want to answer those questions,” Ingraham said.
“If it’s such a good deal, then why do they want to keep the American people from having an influence on it?” Sessions responded. “Why don’t they bring it up during the election [campaign] so people can vote and evaluate their representatives on how they vote?”
The GOP’s leaders, Sessions said, “know it’s not popular. They know it’s not going to be well-received by Republicans or Democrats, and so if they want to promote their agenda — as opposed to defending the agenda of the American people — that’s what you would do.”
“The truth,” Sessions said, “is that the American people overwhelmingly oppose” free-trade agreements.
“By a five-to-one majority, they believe these agreements reduce wages… We need to be understanding what the American people’s concerns are and we as a party should defend them aggressively.”
Ingraham pressed Sessions on some promises made by Ryan to the American people about ObamaTrade earlier this year, prior to the passage of the fast-track mechanism that would grease the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He promised that ObamaTrade would allow for “more accountability, more transparency, Congressional involvement and Congress has the final say on trade agreements.”
But neither Ryan nor any other GOP legislator has a hand in writing those deals, Sessions said.
“This was done by the Obama Administration, number one. But what we did by having the fast track bill pass, we reduced the ability of Congress to even have amendments, and we reduced the ability in the Senate to have 60 votes instead of a simple majority. And the bill will be filed on one day and voted on the next. It will be made public before that, but it will be on the floor one day basically with no amendments– [just an] up or down [vote]– and no filibuster is appropriate or legal. It’s a huge reduction of Congress’ power.”
Sessions has also previously argued that TPP includes a global commission with regulatory authority, so it must be subject to a treaty vote. But as long as GOP leaders keep it on the fast track, that treaty vote can’t happen.
ObamaTrade, Sessions said, is “going to weaken the ability American businesses to compete effectively, it’s going to cost jobs, and reduce wages and it’s going to put us in an international commission that allows the Sultan of Brunei to have the same vote as the President of the United States.”