In the final hours before the House votes on a new leadership-concocted scheme to sneak Obamatrade past the American public, it’s been revealed that pro-Obamatrade forces are now aiming to sneak a renewal of the highly controversial Export Import Bank into the deal to secure Senate passage later if the House passes it on Thursday.
“I and all the other members there are looking for a guarantee … for a deal to be good it’s got to have enforcement, TAA, I think it’s got to have Ex-Im reauthorization,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a Democrat who’s angling for this in the deal, said according to Politico. “A lot of [the meeting] was to talk about that very question of: What is a sufficient assurance?”
Politico reports that such a discussion happened at the White House between so-called pro-Obamatrade Democrats and President Barack Obama.
“At the White House on Wednesday, pro-trade Democrats and Obama discussed the possibility of sticking together as a bloc so they can get TPA, TAA, a customs enforcement and perhaps an extension of the Export-Import Bank charter, which lapses at the end of the month,” Politico wrote late Wednesday.
What’s more, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)—and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)—also confirmed the effort to sneak the Export-Import Bank reauthorization into the deal when it hits the Senate.
“Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and a ‘small group’ of Democratic senators who voted last month to renew TPA made ‘very clear’ in a June 16 meeting with House Democrats that they will support a standalone TPA only if they can get a vote on Ex-Im reauthorization,” Inside U.S. Trade, a high-value trade subscription-only publication for beltway insiders, wrote on Wednesday. “Connolly said for these ‘handful’ of Senate Democrats the Ex-Im issue seemed more important than the passage of TAA.”
Inside U.S. Trade then quoted Connolly and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a top Senate Democrat and Minority Leader Harry Reid’s number two, as saying Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to the secretive effort.
“They were more focused frankly on the outstanding commitment to have a vote on Ex-Im that has not yet materialized,” Connolly said of Cantwell’s and other Democrats’ apparent commitment from McConnell to use Obamatrade’s Trade Promotion Authority as a tool to get Ex-Im reauthorization.
“She’s supposed to get a vote here in the Senate,” Durbin added, talking about Cantwell. “The best they’ve come up with was, what, last week when Sens. [Mark] Kirk and [Kelly] Ayotte came up with a momentary procedural vote followed by a quick withdrawal of the amendment. That’s not going to save the Ex-Im Bank.”
What’s more, the Inside U.S. Trade article notes that McConnell “pledged to Cantwell” while considering Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to fast-track at least three of Obama’s highly secretive foreign trade deals and the attached Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill “that she could offer up an Ex-Im reauthorization bill on the Senate floor in June.”
“McConnell has since taken the position that this commitment was fulfilled when senators supporting Ex-Im reauthorization staged a ‘show vote’ to demonstrate strong support when they proposed it as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” Inside U.S. Trade wrote. “Supporters successfully defeated a motion to table the amendment, but subsequently withdrew it.”
“[McConnell] had told Sen. Cantwell earlier this month that he would agree to an Ex-Im amendment, and they had that vote last week on Ex-Im,” a Senate aide told Inside U.S. Trade, a reference to the NDAA show vote before adding that in the words of Inside U.S. Trade’s paraphrasing of the aide: “Cantwell is free to propose an Ex-Im reauthorization bill as an amendment to any bill that moves on the Senate floor.”
That means, technically, that Export Import bank reauthorization could come up on TPA if and when it comes up in the Senate—should the House pass a newly cooked up effort by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday. It also means—strangely enough as even Ryan says he opposes Ex-Im—that any House member voting for TPA on Thursday could be voting to inadvertently and accidentally pave a way for Ex-Im to be reauthorized.
The dangerous and tricky strategy by leadership—filled with complicated inside-the-beltway procedural chaos—comes after last week Ryan’s efforts to push President Obama’s biggest second-term priority were shattered by a coalition of House conservatives and Democrats. The House, which tried to push under Ryan’s leadership through a Senate-passed package of TPA and TAA, failed to get enough votes for TAA and barely passed TPA.
TPA would fast track congressional approval of three highly secretive trade deals: the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TPA pretty much guarantees Congressional certification of each, since no trade deal started on fast track in the history of fast track in the U.S. has ever been defeated. TPP text is currently being held in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in a secure room where only members of Congress can read it, and only staff with high enough security clearances are allowed in and only with members. TPP would, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), create a new “Pacific Union” that cedes U.S. sovereignty to a new global commission—and it contains all sorts of various progressive priorities like immigration matters, climate change handouts to the left, and more, not to mention the fact that inside the Pacific Rim text there is what is called a “living agreement” which means changes, including the addition of nations like China, to the deal can be made without ever running it back by Congress. A top Australian official confirmed on Wednesday, too, that the deal is just a week from finalization meaning that Congress will get no say in the crafting of the deal so technically a vote for TPA is a vote for TPP.
Much less, as Sessions noted in a statement late Wednesday, is known about the even more secretive T-TIP and TiSA deals. T-TIP is expected to be similar to TPP in nature, while TiSA is a deal with more than 20 different nations and global entities including the European Union. Documents from TiSA that leaked on Wikileaks show that it would substantially change the way the United States handles several policy issues, including but not limited to healthcare and immigration. The text of both TiSA and T-TIP are currently being kept secret from even members of Congress and their staffs, which Sessions noted means every member of Congress who voted for TPA has no idea what they have actually done.
To secure Democratic support in the Senate, pro-Obamatrade forces had to attach TAA—which is essentially a big government handout program that is meant to offset the job losses that will happen with any foreign trade agreement the U.S. enters into. The package passed the Senate a few weeks ago, and then when it came up in the House, Democrats—under the leadership of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—there turned on TAA as a means of killing the entire package after conservatives failed in a nearly successful effort to take down a rule and kill it all on a procedural vote.
TAA failed enormously in the House, losing 302-126, and after that vote Ryan, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise jammed through a then-meaningless TPA vote 219-211. It became apparent after that vote that to try to get TAA through the House because of controversial measures inside the Senate-passed version of that program, Boehner and Ryan changed a pay-for structure to include a tax increase nearly identical to one Boehner previously called one of Washington’s “dumbest ideas” when he got it repealed out of Obamacare in 2011. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), an organization for which nearly every elected Republican in America has signed a pledge against raising taxes, previously called the nearly identical tax inserted into Obamatrade a tax—even though it’s now, since Ryan supports it at this time, is calling the tax not a tax but still opposes the TAA program—meaning the 86 Republicans leadership tricked into voting for TAA all violated the pledges they took against raising taxes.
The political toxicity around Obamatrade has taken over the 2016 election cycle, hurting proponents like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Outsider candidates like Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and more have all gained traction substantially on the trail due to their opposition to Ryan’s Obamatrade. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—the likely presumptive future nominee—was forced due to the bipartisan unpopularity of this deal to come out against it joining Pelosi after former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her two opponents, have been vehemently opposed to Obamatrade from the beginning. Clinton, who helped negotiate TPP as it’s been under way for at least six years, previously supported this program.
It appeared Obamatrade was dead forever after the House shot down TAA, but a determined Ryan and Boehner—working alongside McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn on the other side of the Capitol—convened a series of secret meetings that included Cornyn, Ryan, McCarthy, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Boehner himself, and House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), among others. In those meetings, they devised a scheme by which to bring Obamatrade back to life and sneak it past unsuspecting Americans nationwide.
The crux of their ploy is as follows: The House will vote on Thursday on TPA as a standalone measure. If that passes, the Senate will take up a standalone TPA as well. The president, who wants to sneak his secret trade deals past Congress to cement his legacy as soon as possible, would presumably sign TPA immediately.
After all that, they say the House and Senate would each pass TAA and the president would sign that too. Boehner and McConnell issued a joint statement publicly on Thursday guaranteeing they would pass TAA. They also say they would pass a separate customs bill that supposedly—but it’s unclear if it actually does—has protections against using trade for immigration purposes.
“We are committed to ensuring both TPA and TAA get votes in the House and Senate and are sent to the President for signature,” Boehner and McConnell said. “And it is our intent to have a conference on the customs bill and complete that in a timely manner so that the President can sign it into law.”
There’s several problems with the guarantee they made, as the New York Times noted.
“Trade Bill’s Fate Rests on What’s Been Missing in Congress: Trust,” read a headline from Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer on Wednesday.
“Pro-trade Democrats in the Senate now find themselves in a place of both power and panic as they weigh whether to help Republicans retaliate against House Democrats, all the while trusting those same Republicans to help pass the worker assistance program,” Steinhauer wrote.
There’s a strong likelihood, especially if TAA contains a tax increase again as the pay-for, that Republican opposition in the GOP-controlled Congress would be enough to kill the measure. There’s also a strong likelihood that with the customs bill, if it does as some proponents argue limit President Obama’s immigration power as an executive, that the president would veto it—or that the more-open-to-amnesty-policies Senate would reject it, despite doe-eyed promises from the eager Ryan.
With all that in mind, and a razor-thin margin for error from Ryan after the purely-for-show TPA measure barely passed the House 219-211 last week, there’s a strong possibility that with just enough grassroots pressure in the final hours of this Obamatrade fiasco that TPA could fail on Thursday. It’s expected that anti-amnesty organization Numbers USA will activate its 3 million grassroots activists nationwide on Thursday morning to call their congressmen to kill this bill, and there’s a few weak links in leadership’s expectations—and if the 54 Republicans who voted against TPA last week hold strong, though nothing is certain, it may go down on Thursday with enough pressure on select members.
A few who could change their previous pro-TPA votes to oppose it under these new and even more unpopular include Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Brian Babin (R-TX), Rod Blum (R-IA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Jody Hice (R-GA), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Martha Roby (R-AL), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), John Fleming (R-LA), Ralph Abraham (R-LA) or Ryan Zinke (R-MT), among others.
DeSantis, who’s running for Senate in Florida, would likely lose substantial grassroots support—which is necessary to get through what’s likely to be a bruising primary against Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera—if he votes for this, and he’d also if he does win the primary get hammered by Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy, his likely opponent, because Murphy voted against this deal the first go-around and is likely to oppose it again. DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment, so it’s unclear what’s going through his mind, but several other prominent Florida delegation Republicans opposed TPA the first time including Reps. Daniel Webster (R-FL), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Richard Nugent (R-FL), Curt Clawson (R-FL) and more so they’re likely to be putting the pressure on DeSantis and Bilirakis among others from the delegation.
Byrne, Roby and Rogers are from the Alabama delegation—which Sen. Sessions and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) represent, the only pair of Republican U.S. Senators from a state that together opposed Obamatrade in the Senate, and Reps. Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Robert Aderholt (R-AL) oppose Obamatrade too. Roby’s likely to face a tough primary challenge from nationally-acclaimed Tea Party activist Becky Gerritson—who has testified before Congress due to Obama’s IRS targeting her Wetumpka Tea Party—too, and a vote from her for TPA would fuel that fire.
Barletta, Blum and Fleming might change their yes votes on TPA from before due to the fact that Obamatrade is going to empower the president on immigration according to Sen. Sessions as could Abraham. Zinke might flip because he previously opposed TPA because it gave too much power to Obama to negotiate with foreign countries—which alarmed him after the Iran and Cuba deals—but he voted for TPA after getting a minor amendment in the process which might have been obliterated in this new leadership crafted Obamatrade concoction and due to all of Ryan’s misleading statements on this matter.
Freshmen Loudermilk, Hice and Babin—after falling through on several promises to their districts including on the vote regarding Speaker Boehner’s re-election at the beginning of this Congress—may turn due to increased pressure from their districts. After promising on the campaign trail last year they’d vote for a Boehner alternative for Speaker, Loudermilk and Hice both voted for Boehner—while Babin simply voted “present” instead of for one of the alternative candidates like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Webster or others.
There’s always also the possibility that Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), who voted for TPA after opposing the rule last week, votes against it on Thursday due to the process. Radio’s Mark Levin highlighted Stutzman’s altercation with leadership back late last year during the vote on the so-called “CRomnibus” spending bill in a post on his Facebook page on Thursday.
“The TPA boondoggle is back and I am told that John Boehner is telling the GOP members that if they vote to pass the TPA, a bill later with restrictions on immigration, among other things, will be passed to reign in Obama’s actions,” Levin wrote on Facebook. “Boehner pulled the same trick against Congressman Marlin Stutzman not long ago, when Kevin McCarthy promised if he voted to let the massive budget bill go to the House floor, the GOP leadership would replace the bill on the floor with a smaller spending bill. But McCarthy lied to Stutzman. The leadership did no such thing. They delivered their massive spending bill to Obama, who quickly signed it. MEANWHILE, Obama is telling the Democrats in Congress to vote for TPA because it will allow him to finish his last year and a half unrestrained by the Republicans. In other words, he will run wild using the trade bill to institute left-wing agenda items. (Remember, the trade deal could not be amended by congressional Republicans.) So, when Obama, Boehner, and McConnell huddled this week to come up with a plan to push TPA through Congress, clearly they decided that lying to members of Congress and deceiving the American people was the way to win the vote.”
Some Republicans from the more liberal side of the party may go against it as well for other reasons like promises Ryan has apparently made on other parts of this as well.
There’s also high likelihood that pro-Obamatrade forces will lose several of the 28 Democrats who voted for TPA last week due to the fact that TAA is now separated entirely—and despite pledges from Boehner and McConnell, there’s a strong likelihood the GOP-controlled Congress will shoot down TAA later. At least a handful of those Democrats are likely to vote against it now, but even more could oppose it.
Of course, there’s also a possibility it may break the exact opposite way and more members vote for TPA. With no margin for error, it remains to be seen what exactly will go down in what’s likely to be one of the most dramatic votes in years in Congress.
“The extraordinary lengths that leadership has gone to push through fast track demonstrates just how hard it would be to defeat an agreement submitted under these rules,” Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government, said in an email. “Should fast track be approved, Republican members who voted to give President Obama this power will regret the decision as they are forced to deal with non-amendable treaties that undermine their own powers, and strike at the heart of how our representative democracy is supposed to work. Very few times will they get to vote on big issues where the true future of what the world will look like in the decades ahead. Should fast track pass, Congress will have abdicated having the true and robust discussion that Obama’s TPA, TTIP and TISA deserve.”
What’s more, if Obamatrade fails, Ryan’s credibility will take a probably irreparable shot. If it somehow passes, it’ll most likely become the biggest issue of the 2016 election cycle–and may spark a rebellion against Washington even bigger than the one Obamacare sparked in 2010.