2016: Rubio, Graham Refuse to Answer Whether They Read Obamatrade Before Voting on It

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Only two GOP presidential candidates currently in the U.S. Senate publicly admit to have read the Obamatrade agreement prior to voting on it: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

Cruz voted for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Pacific Rim trade deal.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—the other two Senate Republicans who have announced they’re running for president—refuse to answer, through spokespersons, whether they’ve gone to the secret room to read the TPP deal and whether they did before voting on TPA. Both Rubio and Graham voted for TPA, which would fast-track TPP—and at this point they’re both choosing through staff to give the public impression they didn’t read the secret text before they voted.

In addition, neither the public nor the press are allowed to see the log-keeping record of which senators actually read the text prior to voting for it—though there is a log that is kept of who goes into the room to read it. The private text is kept in the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Room for the Senate, and the Senate Security Office, according to a senate staffer, keeps the secret log.

Breitbart News contacted the Senate Security Office, but then was directed to the Executive Office for the Secretary of the Senate, who eventually told Breitbart News that information about senate security practices is not given to the public or the media.

So—in effect—what that means is there isn’t any possible way for the public to verify whether their representatives or senators actually read the trade agreement before voting to fast track its passage.

Since the creation of fast-track authority in the Richard Nixon administration, no deal has ever been derailed after being put on a fast track—they have all eventually been passed—so voting for TPA is essentially voting for TPP.

Paul, the only GOP presidential candidate in the U.S. Senate to vote against Obamatrade, went to the secret room in the Capitol to read the text of it on May 13. In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News outside the room right after he read it, Paul noted that the TPP text was about 800 pages long and that the president should publicly release the text of it before Congress gives him TPA fast-track authority for it.

“The thing is, is that I think it actually hurts their cause by making it so secretive—while I can’t discuss the details of what was in there because of them calling it secret, I didn’t see anything that I didn’t think couldn’t be made public with a problem,” Paul said. “If so, I’m missing something, because we read through 800 pages of it and we didn’t see anything that I couldn’t conclude couldn’t be made public.”

Cruz, a spokesman confirmed to Breitbart News, read the TPP text on May 12—the day before Paul did. That means Cruz read the TPP text 10 full days before voting on TPA on May 22.

Breitbart News confirmed this with Cruz’s office, which checked his calendar and noted he read the text on May 12th at 2:30 in the afternoon.

As Breitbart News previously reported, the TPP is being kept in a secured, secret room in the Capitol for senators to review – and in fact, has been available for review since 2012. Once the negotiations are completed, the agreement will be made public.

If Congress approves fast-track authority on trade, it will be able to review the agreement two months before the president signs it. However, Congress only gets an up or down vote on a trade deal – meaning they can’t offer amendments to it. That essentially ensures that whatever is presented passes, regardless of the fact that Obama and his administration negotiated it.

“Under fast-track, Congress transfers its most basic legislative powers to the Executive for six years,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who opposed Obamatrade, said on May 22—the day the Senate passed TPA. “Any yet-unseen global pacts, no matter how sweeping, are guaranteed a ‘fast-track’ to congressional adoption. No amendments. No ability to strike any offending provision. And no chance to apply either the 60- or 67-vote thresholds used for important legislation and treaties…We are creating another unelectable, unaccountable, unanswerable bureaucracy that can tie down and frustrate American sovereignty.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sen. Joe Manchin (R-WV) – all members of Obama’s own party – questioned the administration’s secrecy of the agreement.

“I couldn’t take my staff who had expertise in that arena because he did not have that clearance, so I had to go in with a – and I couldn’t take notes out. And then on top of that, I couldn’t even speak to him about what I saw because he didn’t have that clearance. I have never been through something like this,” Manchin said during debate on the Senate floor.

“The secrecy is ludicrous. It’s ridiculous. And it’s against the interests of the people we represent,” Boxer echoed Manchin’s concerns.

Those in favor of TPP have argued that the agreement shouldn’t be made public yet because it could jeopardize the final negotiations.

“In the midst of any high-stakes negotiations, some level of confidentiality is essential to getting a good deal, especially in this case,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who co-authored the legislation, argued.

However, as Boxer and Warren both noted, the American people were able to see President George W. Bush’s trade deal.

“When George W. Bush was president and a trade deal was being negotiated and before fast-track came up, everybody saw the deal,” Boxer fired back at Hatch.

It is now up to the House of Representatives to decide whether or not to give Obama fast-track trade authority over the final negotiations of the TPP. While those in favor of Obamatrade say there will be a vote some time this month, as more and more members come out publicly against the deal, it is unclear if it will ever even come up for a vote.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been cheerleading Obamatrade, using the White House’s own talking points and even cherry picking a PEW research study on the public’s view of trade deals.

Ryan and Cruz, in fact, co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on April 21, three weeks before Cruz actually read the TPP, advocating for both the TPA and TPP.

The op-ed argues that fast-track authority would actually give lawmakers more say over trade agreements “vital for economic growth.”

However, Sessions argued this is a myth:

If Congress gives the Executive six-year fast-track authority, the Senate will cede its ability to amend any future legislation implementing any yet-unseen global trade and regulatory pact; cede its ability to control debate over that pact; and cede its ability to subject that pact to the 67-vote threshold required for treaties, as well as the 60-vote threshold required for important legislation.

Breitbart News contacted Cruz’s office about the op-ed being written three weeks prior to his review of the TPP, but a spokesman argued the op-ed was simply just about TPA—which technically would apply not just to TPP but to any trade deal negotiated and pitched while fast-track is in effect.

Cruz’s office’s claim that the op-ed didn’t include TPP isn’t true.

The op-ed’s first sentence discusses TPP: “The United States is making headway on two historic trade agreements, one with 11 countries on the Pacific Rim and another with America’s friends in Europe. These two agreements alone would mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers.”

Nonetheless, experts predict Obama will have a harder time getting fast-track authority in the House than in the Senate.

“The Senate vote for fast track was much closer than anyone expected. Because the Senate has always been more favorable to the fast track (TPA) procedure than the House, the closeness of the vote suggests that the legislation may well fail in the House where opposition by both Republicans and Democrats is much stronger,” Clyde Prestowitz, a trade negotiator who worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, previously told Breitbart News.


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