Mixed Messaging: Paul Ryan’s Campaign Saying Different Things Than His Congressional Office About Pacific Rim Obamatrade

Paul Ryan Two Ways AP Photos
AP Photos

JANESVILLE, Wisconsin — Obamatrade’s biggest champion House Speaker Paul Ryan has been caught telling the voters of Wisconsin one thing through his campaign, while his congressional office in Washington, D.C., tells people another, when it comes to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Ryan previously supported the deal, as evidenced by the glowing praise he heaps on it on his congressional website PaulRyan.House.gov.

“Currently, the United States is working to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would represent a major trade deal with 11 Pacific nations, and continuing to negotiate the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a breakthrough trade agreement with Europe,” Ryan writes on his Congressional website in a section on TPP specifically, praising the deal as allowing Wisconsin businesses to access foreign markets.

“Today’s global economy represents a huge economic opportunity for Wisconsin businesses that export products, and whether we choose to engage or not, these markets are going to be open for business,” Ryan writes glowingly of the deal. “Trade agreements are crucial to the American economy. In fact, one in five American jobs is tied to trade. This is especially important in Wisconsin where trade supports over 785,000 jobs.”

Ryan was the congressional Republican who most aggressively pushed for the congressional passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which greases the skids for the passage of the TPP and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)—among other trade deals like the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TPA lowers the U.S. Senate’s vote threshold for passage of trade deals from 60 votes to simply 51 votes, and it kills the ability for Congress to amend trade deals. Everyone knows that without TPA, there is no way any of these trade deals stand a chance at congressional approval.

Ryan has misled the public by claiming that TPA would increase congressional power over trade deals by requiring the administration to provide them to Congress in a certain timeframe before a vote. Technically speaking, Ryan has claimed that he didn’t actually support TPP until he read it—though it’s been widely understood that he supports it, and has since the text of it was released after it was finalized in Atlanta late last year.

Ryan’s website says:

On October 5, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Administration and 11 other countries from across North America and the Pacific Region agreed to the terms of a TPP agreement, and the final text of the agreement will be finalized in the coming weeks. A successful TPP would mean greater American influence in the world and more good jobs at home. But only a good agreement – and one that meets the standards passed by Congress via Trade Promotion Authority – will be able to pass the House. Fortunately, because the House and Senate passed TPA in June, Congress and the public both have the right to review the agreement before the United States enters into it. Thus, I am reserving judgment until I am able to review the final text and consult with my colleagues and those for whom I work in the First District of Wisconsin. I am pleased that the American people will be able to read it as well because TPA requires, for the first time ever, the Administration to make the text public for at least 60 days before sending it to Congress for consideration. The Administration must clearly explain the benefits of this agreement and what it will mean for American families. I hope that the Administration has exercised TPA to pursue the objectives Congress set for TPP negotiations and produced an agreement that the House can support.

The fact that Ryan says on his congressional website that he has “hope” that the administration “produced an agreement that the House can support” has been read by everyone in politics as his undying support for the deal in the end.

That’s why it was shocking when Ryan this week claimed, under pressure from Paul Nehlen—the Republican candidate for Congress against Ryan in Wisconsin’s first congressional district—that he now opposes the deal in its current form.

“I have my own problems with TPP, it is not ready, the president has to renegotiate some critical components of it,” he said on Wisconsin radio this week.

Ryan also said there are currently not enough votes to pass TPP, and that if there are not enough votes in a lame duck session of Congress, the House will not vote on it. But Ryan interestingly would not rule out any vote on TPP if it somehow regains support among his colleagues after their elections.

“As long as we don’t have the votes, I see no point in bringing up an agreement only to defeat it,” Ryan said in the Wisconsin Public Radio interview.

Ryan spokesman Zack Roday has not answered whether that means Ryan is committing 100 percent that there will be no vote on TPP in its current form ever. Ryan has made no such commitment.

Roday has also not answered why Ryan, through his campaign and the campaign website, is providing an entirely different message to the voters of Wisconsin on TPP than he is providing to to policy wonks in Washington, D.C. on his U.S. House website.

On his campaign website, Ryan boldly states: “Paul Ryan opposes trade agreements that do not benefit U.S. workers and businesses.”

“Paul is withholding his support for TPP because he believes President Obama did a poor job negotiating the agreement,” his campaign website says.

“Paul wants a level playing field for U.S. workers and businesses,” it continues. “When we compete on equal terms with other countries, we win. Paul believes the U.S., not China, should write and work to enforce the rules of global trade.”

Ryan’s campaign website adds one more line on trade: “In Wisconsin, we grow and make things, so we need access to markets domestically and abroad to sell our products.”

When sent a request for comment asking for a response to the inconsistencies on Ryan’s message between his campaign website and his congressional website, Ryan’s spokesman Roday has not responded.