DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, is calling on Fox News debate moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace to ask the GOP presidential candidates where they stand on Obamatrade.
“It absolutely is a critical issue for the future of America,” Sessions told Breitbart News in an exclusive phone interview late last week.
This is no little matter that needs to be decided in some secret room and secret negotiations. I don’t see how anybody that conducts a debate can fail to ask about this critical issue. It affects the long-term financial well-being of this country. People need to know how every one of these candidates, Republican and Democrat, feel about the trade agreements—and particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic agreement and the Trade in Services Agreement. Are you for them or not? Then they [voters] can decide how to cast their vote. Isn’t that what debates are supposed to be about? To give the candidates a chance to explain how they feel and how they are going to conduct themselves if elected? I think it’s a huge matter.
Sessions noted the reason why these trade agreements should be a major focus of this final debate before the Iowa caucuses is because of the impact this issue will have on American workers and American sovereignty moving forward.
“This trade agreement would provide—this Trans Pacific agreement commission for example would provide—the Sultan of Brunei with the same vote as the President of the United States,” Sessions said.
The President could go and agree to the various things he might want to see happen like President Obama would agree to expanded immigration and Congress would be powerless to stop it. It would just create a situation where it would be very difficult for the people’s voice to be heard. They go off and have some meeting somewhere to come up with these agreements and it avoids the legislative process the Constitution sets forth.
Obamatrade is the intersection of and combination of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TPA, which was forced through Congress by now House Speaker Paul Ryan last year, is fast-track authority that greases the skids for the passage of trade deals like TPP, T-TIP and TiSA through Congress by lowering Senate vote thresholds to 51 from 60 and killing the ability for Congress to offer amendments to the deals.
TPP is a 5,544-page-long trade deal with a variety of Pacific Rim nations including Japan, Vietnam and Brunei. T-TIP is a similar deal with various European nations. TiSA is a worldwide deal. Together, they would bind the United States to various global commissions that threaten U.S. sovereignty.
It’s unclear if Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier or Chris Wallace will actually ask candidates where they stand on this issue. While trade has come up in a minor way in recent debates, it has not received the central focus Sessions—the intellectual leader of the modern conservative movement—believes it should have.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was originally in favor of Obamatrade—he voted for TPA the first go-around in the U.S. Senate in 2015—but after withering public scrutiny he flipped against it and voted against TPA the second go-around. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), meanwhile, helped Ryan champion Obamatrade’s cause. On the second go-around in the Senate, Rubio was the critical 60th vote for the TPA.
Rubio claims he read the text of TPP, which was kept in a secret room in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, before he voted for TPA to fast-track it. But Rubio has for more than six months now refused to detail exactly when he went to the secret room to read TPP text and exactly how long he spent there. Since the final deal is again 5,544 pages long, for Rubio to have actually read the text of TPP before voting TPA—again, he would have needed to read it inside that secret classified reading room—he would have had to spend at least several days in there, something it’s highly unlikely he did. What’s more, Donald Trump says he doesn’t believe Rubio’s claim he went to the room to read the deal text–and nobody has ever asked Rubio the question one on one.
Fox News moderators could easily clarify this if they wanted to on Thursday evening during the debate by asking Rubio which full days he spent inside the classified reading room, but since—as Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowksi exposed on Wednesday—the Fox News executive writing debate questions has a daughter working for the Rubio campaign it’s unclear if Rubio will face any real questions at all.
Moreover, while Rubio previously stated he supports TPP passage in addition to having voted for TPA, he now says he is waiting until after most Republicans vote in primaries and caucuses nationwide in the presidential election before he takes a formal position again.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), meanwhile, has been steadfastly opposed to the Obamatrade pacts. He fought alongside Sessions against the TPA and TPP in the Senate, one of only a handful of Republicans willing to stand up to the donor class on this issue from the very beginning.
Donald Trump, the looming frontrunner who won’t be on stage on Thursday night because of his feud with Fox News and will instead be hosting his own veterans benefit across town, has also always been steadfastly opposed to Obamatrade.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is opposed to Obamatrade too, saying he doesn’t “trust” Obama to do this correctly. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, stands with Rubio’s original position to say he thinks Obamatrade—and specifically TPP—is “critical.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also supports TPP.