(Rick Manning) Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) recently spoke on the House floor, saying that “[S]ince the 1930s, Congress has chosen to exercise its responsibility by establishing the broad terms of the agreement that it seeks and then giving explicit instructions to our negotiators at the beginning of the process. If, and only if, these objectives are advanced in the agreement, Congress will then consider it as a whole package and either approve it or reject it.”
While I have great respect for McClintock and the fine work that he has done on any number of issues both at the federal level and in our mutual home state of California, he is dead wrong about granting Obama fast-track trade authority.
The obvious problem with his analysis is that the president has already negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership and any congressional objectives put into legislation granting fast-track trade authority are rendered meaningless.
As an example, a majority of the Senate and House signed a letter to the president in the 113th Congress urging him to include strong currency manipulation language into TPP. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman admitted recently before the Senate Finance Committee that this request was ignored and the administration would continue with bilateral negotiations.
The constitutional advice-and-consent process allows Congress to provide guidance to an executive in formulation of treaties, with the two-thirds ratification in the Senate consent requirement giving the legislative branch the stick to hold a president accountable.
Yet, for all the provisions in trade promotion authority, it is clear that congressional leadership will press ahead with TPP no matter what its contents.
For evidence, witness the failure of proponents of fast-track authority to even acknowledge the legitimate concerns that the TPP is a “living agreement” subject to future renegotiation and the inclusion of new partners without congressional approval.
If fast-track authority is passed, Congress would be unable to amend out this provision, leaving themselves even without the filibuster tool in the Senate to defend their prerogatives.
Everyone agrees that trade is vital to our nation’s economic vibrancy. The United States currently engages in more than $750 billion of annual trade with the nations involved in TPP. Our nation already has trade agreements with Australia, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Chile, to name just five of the participating countries.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not really a trade deal at all, but instead a regulatory one; a deal designed to impact every area of law and regulations that govern our nation. It is a deal that can be changed later by the president alone, impacting environmental, intellectual property and immigration laws through the stroke of a pen.
Everyone agrees that trade is good. The question is whether Congress should fast-track an agreement that is about rewriting the rules for the world’s economy, or whether they should review it with the sobriety intended in the U.S. Constitution?
Congress should vote “no” on the trade promotion authority bill.
Manning is president of Americans for Limited Government.