Despite what House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—the chief proponent of Obamatrade—says about the votes being there to pass it in the House, House Republicans are building a firewall against Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Pacific Rim trade deal.
The news of an organized—and fairly impressive—House Republican backstop against Obamatrade comes as U.S. Senate Republicans are rushing the TPA fast-track through their chamber of Congress as fast they can.
What’s more, the whole Obamatrade process is shaping up as almost identical to the “Gang of Eight” amnesty fight two years ago: The same open borders supporting elites are pushing it, it’s going to pass the Senate but not with as much support as proponents originally claimed, Ryan is going to try to force House Republicans to support it, and House Republicans are organizing a quiet but numbers-heavy resistance against it.
The only question is: Can House Republicans opposed to Obamatrade get enough members together to stop Ryan’s elitist agenda? At this time, it sure looks like the cavalry has arrived. In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) confirmed he is strongly opposed to the Obamatrade deal as it stands now.
“I’m no” as the deal stands now, Jordan, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said on Wednesday. “I’m for trade, trade means opportunity. We have a lot of business, a lot of industry in Ohio who benefit from selling their product to as many markets as they can, in as many markets as they can.”
Jordan said that voters elected Republicans because they ran on issues such as excessive regulation, a broken tax code, and Obamacare, not pushing the trade deal.
“They didn’t elect us to give the president of the United States more authority to go negotiate a trade deal, particularly the same president we’ve all criticized for the terrible deal he did with Iran– is working on with Iran,” Jordan said. “So I think that combination is the problem.”
Jordan previously expressed skepticism of the deal, but now he’s going even further in opposition.
“If the Republican Party doesn’t start showing regular American families, in a populist tone, what we are doing to fight for them, we are going to be in big trouble,” Jordan said in a radio interview a couple weeks ago.
We didn’t get done what we told the voters we said we were going to do on the President’s executive amnesty issue, which I think was unconstitutional; we pull a pro-life bill on the most pro-life day of the year, the March for Life day in January, we pull a pro-life bill on that day; and now some people are talking about not repealing Obamacare; and yet we’re going to move heaven and earth to pass a trade bill, and give this President the authority to negotiate a trade deal after the last seven weeks when we’ve criticized him for the pathetic deal he got with Iran.
How does that make sense politically? Forget about the policy for a second– just think about raw politics– how does that make sense? …I’m not opposed to free trade, I think there are some opportunities, but the timing of this… and how we’re getting it done, as you talked about, not being able to see the TPP agreement, that’s all problematic.
At the Conversations With Conservatives press availability on Wednesday morning, Jordan echoed what he told Breitbart News on Tuesday.
The opportunity to sell your product in foreign markets, that’s a good thing,” Jordan said. “I think all up here are for that. We’ve said already we have concerns with the process. I’ve said I lean no. The other new thing being talked about and being done in the Senate is I think they’re adding Trade Adjustment to the actual Trade Promotion Authority. That is a problem as well. We’re hearing rumors they may have a rule to split them up and put them back together when it comes to the House. I think that is a problem.
Jordan’s spokesman Darin Miller emailed Breitbart News as well to be crystal clear on Jordan’s position: “Rep. Jordan does not like the bill as is. But he wants to see the final Senate version, and whether things change during House debate.”
Jordan’s position is important because so many members on the Republican side of the aisle will follow him instead of following GOP leadership. Jordan’s Freedom Caucus has at least 19 publicly known members. One other, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) is a supporter of TPA—and was at one point one of the key salesmen for the deal—but then got caught on national radio admitting he hasn’t read the TPP deal text that TPA would fast-track.
“No, I have not read the TPP yet, no,” McClintock said on a national radio program, hurting the cause more than he helped it because it allowed comparisons of this process to Obamacare—where former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Since no trade deal has ever been stopped while Fast Track, now renamed euphemistically TPA, was in process—a concept started under President Richard Nixon—a vote for TPA is essentially a vote for TPP.
Most other Freedom Caucus members, however, are opposed to the deal.
“I am going to look at it,” Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), who voted for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Speaker of the House at the beginning of this Congress, told Breitbart News. “Right now, I am not inclined to give the President any more authority because of his abuse of executive power. I am as pro free trade as anybody but this is a different environment.”
Fellow Freedom Caucus members Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and Dave Brat (R-VA), among others, are opposed as well. Duncan wrote a piece for Breitbart News laying out why he’s opposed to fast-track, and Brat has been vocal in his opposition to Obamatrade.
Appearing on the John Fredericks show—a local radio program in Virginia—Brat laid out how fast-track TPA “mirrors the logic I was talking about in terms of the amnesty.”
“This is one of the key reasons I’m leaning a solid no on TPA and TPP,” Brat said.
Because if we’re arguing in the best interest of the average American, we should be able to make these arguments in the light of day and debate. Debate is a very healthy thing… The best thing you can do is this representative democracy idea our founders thought of where you put an idea before the people and you air it out on TV… And we need to debate and show where the pressure points are on these arguments, [but] we can’t do that. I have to go down to a security bunker– and I have been in there to read the bill– and it’s 400 pages. What am I going to do? Memorize that and then arrange the key points in my head?
And then part of it’s classified and you don’t know what you can even mention to your fellow members or not that haven’t read it yet because it’s under security. And so, major issues. I’m a total free trader. It hurts my brain. I have constituents who I know need trade to take place, and so it hurts me, but the issue does come down to– do you trust the president and this process? And the only out is they say, ‘Well you get a final up or down vote.’ Well, even there, look at the doc fix, etc.
If both sides of leadership do an end run and they agree ahead of time to find to find 300 votes for, ya know, $140 billion unpaid for on the doc fix, they can do the same kind of thing in the TPA and TPP. And then my vote is nullified. And up here you know how it works– there’s sort of a 90-10 proposition: if there’s 90% good stuff that both sides of leadership want and 10 percent is unconstitutional– ‘Well, that’s an unfortunate detail,’ but it passes. And that’s not the way I operate. I operate on the fundamentals: the rule of law matters, the constitution matters, the free market matters, telling the truth matters, and if any of those get violated, I’m a no.”
The Freedom Caucus members are hardly the only ones against it. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told Breitbart News that he’s against Obamatrade as well.
“I strongly oppose giving fast-track authority to President Obama,” Jones said.
For the past six years the president has ignored Congress, repeatedly abused his executive authority, and flaunted the law on Obamacare, amnesty for illegal aliens, and many other things. Given his record, I am astonished that some of my colleagues are so eager to fork over even more of their constitutional authority to the president for him to abuse. It would be incredibly naïve to think that the president has changed his tune and will now dutifully follow whatever statutory trade negotiating instructions Congress might seek to require of him in a fast-track bill.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) echoed concerns from Jones and Jordan, adding that he’s pretty much a no but hasn’t officially decided he’s against the TPA deal.
“This president has done so many unconstitutional and unlawful things, that it is impossible to trust that he’ll act appropriately on this issue,” Buck said. “I am in favor of free trade, but I am still weighing the facts on this issue, because President Obama has given Congress and the American people no reason to trust him.”
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) expressed that he views a habitual abuse of authority as a driving force in their positions against Obamatrade.
“Why would we give President Obama more power when he’s already taken more authority than he’s constitutionally allowed in almost every area?” Burgess said in an email. “This would be an enormous grant of power and, between my distrust for this administration and the secretive nature by which it’s being brokered, I simply cannot lend my support to the TPA agreement.”
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) is also a no on Obamatrade fast track, writing back in February in his local newspaper the Wheeling News-Register that it would be a “mistake” to grant Obama fast-track authority.
“President Obama has consistently broken his trust with the American people on immigration, health care, and foreign policy yet he is now asking for expanded power to negotiate trade deals, but without input from Congress,” McKinley wrote.
This authority is called “fast-track” and would allow the President to negotiate wide-ranging deals behind closed doors with nations in Asia and South America as well as the European Union. Any deal he makes would receive a rushed vote on the House floor with no amendments and limited debate. In fact, the Obama Administration is already negotiating these deals in secret. The draft agreements are treated like state secrets, meaning lawmakers may only review them under strict rules – no notes, no copies, no staff.
Given his track record of broken promises and circumventing Congress, why should the American people trust that any agreement President Obama negotiates will be in their best interest? There is concern in Congress on both sides of the aisle that he will not cut a fair deal.
Last weekend, Ryan appeared on national television to claim—prematurely, it seems—that the votes are there in the House to pass this. He’s claimed the same thing on other matters before, like last Congress he said there were the votes to pass amnesty when there weren’t.
“We will have the votes,” Ryan said on CNN’s State of the Union this weekend.
But with the widespread House Republican opposition emerging quickly—more and more members are speaking out—it’s going to be a brutal bean-counting battle as the days go on. The House won’t take up fast-track Obamatrade until next week, and as House members face their constituents over the Memorial Day weekend, the GOP opposition is likely to keep growing. Since only maybe 20 or so Democrats will vote for Obamatrade, Ryan—who’s guiding this fight for Speaker John Boehner—would need to deliver at least 200 Republican votes out of 245 GOP members in the House. But with the scores of Republicans coming out against it, he just may fail yet.
Politico seems to get the joke, too, and wrote a big story on Wednesday detailing how this fight is the battle of Paul Ryan’s career. If he fails yet again—like he’s failed so many times before—Ryan’s credibility will forever be shot, Politico wrote.
“If he’s successful, it will be a legacy-burnishing accomplishment. If Ryan fails, it matters little whether Democrats and Republicans are to blame,” Politico’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer wrote. “Ryan’s detractors are sure to relish in an I-told-you-so moment months in the making. While he’s universally known as a policy wonk, some Republicans privately wonder whether Ryan has the vote-counting acumen to get complex legislation through the House.”