Exclusive — Jeff Sessions: Obamatrade Can Be Killed

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) grilled attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch on immigration during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Negotiators in Atlanta have reached an agreement on the 12-nation global trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), meaning the trade deal is likely to come up for a vote early next year.

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama – who led the populist revolt against fast-track and TPP – wants Americans to understand TPP can still be killed.

In an exclusive interview on Breitbart News Sunday Sirius XM radio with Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, Sessions was asked: “Is there any way for [TPP] to be defeated… in the United States Senate?” Sessions answered that yes, it is “possible” to kill the TPP bill.

Obamatrade collectively refers to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which is the controversial fast-track mechanism for ramming bills through Congress with minimum scrutiny, and the three major trade deals that would be guaranteed these ‘fast-track’ protections before a page of them had been made public: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Sessions has previously pointed out that these three trade deals collectively encompass 90 percent of global GDP.

That’s how Obamatrade turns legislative procedure on its head. GOP leaders and Paul Ryan voted to give Obama these new powers to ink globalist trade pacts – without any real legislative scrutiny – before a single word of them was publicly available. As Sessions declared in his final warning prior to the passage of fast track authority:

The entire purpose of fast-track is for Congress to surrender its power to the Executive for six years… A vote for fast-track is a vote to authorize the President to ink the secret [TPP] deal contained in these pages—to affix his name on the Union and to therefore enter the United States into it… Like the Gang of Eight, like Obamacare, and so much else—the goal is to get it approved before the American people know what’s in it.

Under fast track authority (TPA), which passed in June of this year, Congress cedes its ability to amend the trade deals negotiated by Obama, and lowers the 67 vote treaty threshold to a mere simple majority. The Senate even surrenders its 60 vote filibuster. After the passage of fast track, the only off-ramp that exists to block Obama’s trade deals is controlled by Paul Ryan, Orrin Hatch, Pete Sessions, and Congressional leadership– depriving individual members of their ability to exercise control.

Historically, no trade deal moved through Congress with the fast track mechanism has ever been blocked. That is why Sessions emphasized that a vote for fast-track was a vote for Obamatrade. But Sessions is saying that it’s still not too late to derail TPP and therefore stop Obamatrade in its tracks.

Senator Sessions says that despite the procedural fact that Congress has ceded its Constitutional powers, it would be possible to generate enough opposition to stop TPP from getting the needed majority vote:

I think it’s possible. When they passed fast track, they got 60 votes… The treaty itself now is no longer subject to supermajority or filibuster. It will pass with a simple majority. It cannot be amended: it’ll be brought up one day and voted on the next day with no amendments– up or down. And in the past, they’ve always passed. And I think that will be what experts will tell you today, but I think the American people are getting more and more uneasy about the effect of trade and the promises that our trading partners are going to comply with their part of the bargain and that we’re all going to benefit have not been real…

Even what I read was not the complete final treaty, they were still negotiating… the final words on it. All we had was the basic outline and what they had agreed to at that point… A senator or a congressman, who voted to fast track it could still very easily say, “But, I didn’t see the treaty then, I’m going to read it now and if it doesn’t serve American interests I’m not going to vote for it.”

A recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request also revealed that there is a chapter in TPP that addresses temporary entry provisions of foreign workers. Additionally, because TPP is a “living agreement,” it can be changed subsequent to its adoption. This means that a group of twelve nations– and any new nation member that gets added to the partnership– would be able to advance changes to America’s immigration policies.

As Breitbart News has previously reported, Sen. Sessions has highlighted how TPP “would give the Sultan of Brunei—who has implemented Sharia Law in his nation and banned Christmas, literally—an ‘equal vote to that of the United States.'”

Sessions declared that the impact of this trade deal on the 2016 election, “could be very large. Several of Republican candidates have opposed it– of course, Donald Trump — but several others have too. This is going to be looked at closely. They could try to bring it up even late this year, most likely early next year.”

However, Sessions warned that leadership might try to time the vote so it falls after the GOP primaries.

Sessions explained: “they could manipulate it in a number of ways because they’re going to be look at primaries– Republican and Democratic primaries next spring– I don’t know how that will play.”

Trade, like immigration, represents an area where Republican leaders and donors are in a state of deep disagreement with Republican voters. As Sessions wrote after the passage of the fast-track trade authority, “Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote—not one to spare—to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages, and control over their own affairs. It is remarkable that so much energy has been expended on advancing the things Americans oppose, and preventing the things Americans want.”

Polls show that conservative voters are those most likely to oppose so-called free trade deals. A recent YouGov poll shows that Republican voters—at higher rates than Democrats—think that free-trade agreements make U.S. wages lower, have resulted in job losses, and have hurt their household.

A 2014 Pew Poll found that Americans by more than a two-to-one margin believe free-trade deals reduce wages (45 percent vs. 17 percent); and believe that free-trade deals destroy jobs by nearly a three-to-one margin (55 percent vs. 20 percent). An NBC poll from June of this year found that 66 percent of “Americans say protecting American industries and jobs by limiting imports is more important than allowing free trade so they can buy products at lower prices from any country.” NBC noted that this, “sentiment is held across party lines, with majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents agreeing.”

Of the top-polling candidates, Trump has taken the strongest position against Obamatrade’s TPP — making opposition to globalist trade policies one of the signature issues of his campaign. Trump and Sessions argue that redistributing manufacturing wealth from the United States to poor and developing countries in order to further global parity has made foreign workers richer, but has made U.S. workers poorer on average. In effect, this theory goes, when companies shift production overseas while simultaneously importing foreign workers for whatever domestic jobs remain, the incomes of the U.S. middle class began to drop lower towards the world norm.

Senator Marco Rubio was one of Obamatrade’s biggest advocates. Rubio voted for Obamatrade’s passage after authoring an op-ed in favor it in April, delivering a foreign policy speech supporting it in May, and passing multiple votes to advance it. But he hasn’t shown he’s read the bill, and Donald Trump questions whether he actually has.

Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee came out powerfully against Obamatrade. Ted Cruz initially voted for it, but voted against cloture during the second vote, claiming chicanery from Mitch McConnell to advance other objectives unrelated to trade, while also objecting to the failure to include prohibitions against foreign workers.

Indeed, while the text of Trade in Services Agreement (one of the other two deals that will be fast-tracked after TPP) has remained a secret even to lawmakers who voted to expedite it, leaked portions of the highly-secretive deal reveal that the agreement includes an entire chapter on immigration with 38 different foreign worker programs through which immigrants could enter the United States. Policy experts have said that this leaked chapter shows that the bill “will constrain the future ability of the United States Congress to regulate U.S. immigration policy.”

Last month, Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, like Sessions, similarly posited that Obamatrade could have a marked impact on the Republican primary:

Virtually all of the major GOP presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush… and Marco Rubio all support the TPP, as do Republican Congressional leaders… The coming debate over the TPP gives Trump the perfect opportunity to do what he’s already been doing to great effect: test the true nature of opinion among rank-and-file Republican voters, by forcing real debates out into the open on issues that had previously remained deliberately vague or walled off from real discussion by GOP orthodoxy… Trump would probably love it if the career politicians he’s facing off against lecture him about the impact that global free trade has on the fortunes of American workers.


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