Two members of House GOP leadership—Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Rules Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)—refused to admit through spokespersons to Breitbart News whether they have read the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Pacific Rim trade deal, but they still support granting President Barack Obama the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to fast track it. What’s more, Scalise and Sessions—and others GOP conference-wide, including even perhaps Boehner—could be vulnerable to serious primary challenges if they continue forward with Obamatrade.
Jill Shatzen, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said in an email:
Chairman Sessions has been a strong proponent of TPA in order to ensure the Congress has a major role in overseeing trade deals and ensuring they are representative of what the American people want.Because negotiations on TPP are not complete, the full agreement is not yet available for review by members. However, when it is complete, TPA ensures that all members and the public have 60 days to review the final agreement before Congress acts. The Chairman looks forward to reviewing the final agreement at that time.
That was in response to Breitbart News asking if Sessions had been to the secret room inside the Capitol to read the text of TPP, and if he’d support TPA without reading TPP. The argument Sessions’ office is making—one that’s been echoed by others in leadership, like Scalise’s team and by chief Obamatrade proponent House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—is that TPA is separate from TPP. While they’re technically correct in asserting that TPA is different from the specific TPP, there is essentially no way to stop a trade deal once it has been fast-tracked. Since fast track was created in the Richard Nixon administration, not one trade deal that started on fast track has been thwarted. As such, a vote for TPA is a vote for TPP, since passing TPA will all but guarantee the successful passage of TPP.
Scalise’s office, through a spokesman, also refused to answer the same questions about whether he went to the room in the Capitol to read the TPP text. A Scalise spokesman said:
I want to make sure we’re clear that TPA and TPP are two separate things. What the House is working to pass is the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA), the text of which is readily available. The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act mandates that any negotiated trade deal—such as TPP—must be made public for 60 days before it’s brought to a vote, and it gives either chamber of Congress a shut-off switch to stop any deal that does not meet the preconditions set by Congress. As another example of its unprecedented transparency and accountability, TPA puts into law the requirement that any Member of Congress has the legal right to review all of the text at any time during the negotiations. That is not the case today, and never has been. TPA will also give members the right to be credentialed to participate in and monitor the actual trade negotiations.
Scalise’s office also echoed Ryan’s comments on Fox News, where he argued—in seeming response to Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who came out against Obamatrade because he can’t trust Obama after the president negotiated with Cuba and Iran—that somehow Obamatrade was more transparent than the Iran deal. Scalise’s spokesman went on to say:
If Congress had the same authority over President Obama’s Iran negotiations, as TPA would give Congress over trade negotiations, the President would not be on the road to a dangerous deal because Congress would have set the terms of the negotiations from the beginning, the American people would be able to review any proposed agreement at least 60 days in advance of a vote, and a single chamber of Congress would have the power to stop any deal that didn’t meet its terms. TPA provides unprecedented transparency, more accountability, and more Congressional direction over trade deals then has ever existed at any time in American history.
When asked again in a follow-up whether Scalise has been to the secret room inside the Capitol to read the guarded text of the TPP—which TPA would fast-track—and why he’d even consider whipping votes for something he doesn’t know anything about if he hasn’t been to the room to read the text, Scalise’s spokesman again refused to answer whether he’s read TPP:
As someone who is following this issue so closely you’re no doubt aware that the text of TPP is not yet final as negotiations are still ongoing. Again, I would point to the fact that TPA requires the text of any negotiated deal to be made public 60 days before a Congressional vote, so far from secret, the text would be publicly available in the light of day, not to mention that members of Congress would have the right to monitor and participate in the actual negotiations. That unprecedented transparency, accountability, and Congressional direction makes this very different from the previous iterations of trade promotion authority to which you refer.
They’re hardly the only ones refusing to admit whether they’ve read the bill. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who voted for it in the U.S. Senate after making it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, has repeatedly refused over the past month plus to answer whether he’s made it to the room to read the TPP text. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who’s also running for president, is also refusing to answer whether he read it. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are the only two GOP presidential candidates in the Senate who read it, and Paul is the only one who voted against Obamatrade. Cruz voted for it after reading the text, but expressed his public support for the deal weeks before he read it in an op-ed with Ryan in the Wall Street Journal.
House Speaker John Boehner has refused repeatedly through spokesman Matt Wolking to answer whether he read the TPP text, but he still supports Obamatrade.
Daniel Horowitz, the senior editor of the Conservative Review, said this is outrageous.
“It is unforgivable for the Republican majority to shirk its congressional duty and refuse to read the text of a bill that will give Obama unprecedented authority over our economy,” Horowitz said in an email. “Passing a bill in order to find out what’s in it is what placed the Pelosi Congress in the ash-heap of history. It’s not an auspicious path for ambitious politicians.”
It’s all so outrageous, actually, that there could be serious consequences—in the likes of what happened to now former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, when now Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) beat him in a primary—for any Republican who votes for Obamatrade should it come up. Brat’s victory over Cantor was the first time in U.S. history that a sitting House Majority Leader was defeated in a primary, and actually right now each of these House GOP leadership officials are either officially facing or flirting with primary challenges.
Boehner has a declared challenger, conservative J.D. Winteregg, who earlier on Thursday hammered the Speaker over this in a Breitbart News exclusive. Winteregg didn’t win last time, but he just might be able to get some momentum going if Boehner keeps beating the drum for war with conservatives.
Meanwhile, down in Texas, Sessions barely fended off Tea Partier Katrina Pierson last election cycle—and she’s considering running against him again. A political newcomer, Pierson got 36 percent of the vote with little funding and only a few months in the race against Sessions last time around. This time, especially if Sessions keeps backing all of Boehner’s affronts to Republicans like this Obamatrade deal, Pierson—or another challenger, should one emerge—would presumably have a lot more resources behind her.
“Pete Sessions has made it clear time and time again that he is ‘Boehner’s guy,’” Pierson emailed to Breitbart News on Thursday afternoon, referencing a previous interview with Breitbart News in which Sessions was adamant he was not a “Boehner guy.”
“He has a fundamental duty to know what’s in the bill before taking action that is well within his pay grade to exercise,” Pierson added. “With his latest Pelosi-esque decision, Mr. Sessions is once again acknowledging that his negligent actions are consistent with his constant abuse of power against his own constituency.”
Over in Louisiana, the situation isn’t much rosier for Scalise. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), a strong conservative who’s likely to win the gubernatorial election later this year, will select his replacement in the Senate when he’s presumably sworn in as governor in January. The two figures vying for the position are Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), a conservative from the northern part of the state, and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness—who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate last cycle in a three-way race against former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and now Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), then a congressman.
Though Maness didn’t win, he wowed a lot of Republicans in Louisiana with his positive-minded conservative reform-focused campaign—and proved himself to be a prolific fundraiser, artful speake,r and consistent vote-winner. A whopping 202,000-plus people voted for him, and he’s since gone on to get intricately involved in state politics via his newly formed GATOR PAC. If Vitter picks Fleming or someone else other than Maness for the Senate seat, it’s a sincere possibility that Maness might run against Scalise in a primary—since Maness does live squarely within Scalise’s district. Scalise’s district is very conservative, serving as political launching points for both Vitter and Gov. Bobby Jindal—they both represented it at one point in their early political careers—and if he keeps doing things like whipping votes for Obamatrade when his staff won’t answer if he’s read the TPP text, he could be very vulnerable.
“Any legislation that needs to be hidden from the people as fast track legislation, especially trade authority by House leadership, does not deserve a vote,” Maness told Breitbart News exclusively on Thursday. “I encourage conservative activists across the Nation to flood Congress with their voices in opposition. Our members of Congress work for us, the America people and should vote the way their constituents ask. I oppose any trade agreement that does not result in more jobs and higher wages for US Citizens. I stand with Senators Jeff Sessions and Rand Paul in opposition to the TPP for this and many other reasons. Attempts to hurt Americans through their own Representatives is despicable. This is why I am extremely interested in running for the other Louisiana United States Senate Seat currently held by conservative Senator David Vitter should he win his bid for Governor in the 2015 election cycle. The reasons that I ran in 2014 have not gone away and I believe Louisiana needs a strong Constitutional conservative voice in the US Senate.”