By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
In 2010, Democrats held commanding majorities in both Houses of Congress. Beginning with that election in November 2010 the GOP railed against the Presidency of Barack H. Obama (D).
Republican candidates for Congress denounced the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 as “Obamacare” and vowed to repeal the unpopular legislation. Time and time again GOP candidates railed against the government and the President himself seeking too much power. The public largely agreed: control of the House of Representatives was given to Republicans in 2010 and the once filibuster proof Democratic majority in the Senate was severely weakened. In 2014 Republicans were given control of the U.S. Senate as well. None of this has led to a balanced budget, the repeal of Obamacare, more border security, or any rollback in Presidential power. The President’s massive immigration amnesty program has been stymied; but that was due to the states suing and the federal courts shutting the program down; not because of any bold action by the U.S. Congress.
With only eighteen months remaining in the much criticized Obama presidency most analysts would expect that the Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress would be doing everything possible to prevent the President from getting anything substantial done during this “lame duck” phase of his presidency so that any major legislation will wait for the next (perhaps Republican) President to decide. Actually, the Republicans are using their majorities to do just the opposite.
Today, the Republican controlled U.S. Senate is poised to make a final vote on cloture to shut down debate to give the “lame duck” President powers to expedite passage of vast new trade agreements. Alabama’s two U.S. Senators are among just a handful of GOP Senators allied with the majority of Democrats who believe that the three mammoth trade deals being negotiated by the President go too far in surrendering American sovereignty.
Senator Jeff Sessions said in a statement late on Monday, “For too long the United States has entered into trade deals on the promise of economic bounty, only to see workers impoverished, industries disappear, and manufacturing jobs decline.”
Sen. Sessions and most of the Democrats are attempting to filibuster giving President Obama fast track authority to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other international trade agreements negotiated and passed in the waning days of the Obama Presidency. It is very ironic that this is power the Democratic controlled majority in the Senate were reluctant to give even though they supported most of his agenda.
Conservative pundits across the country have spoken out against passage of TPA, TAA, TPP, or what some are calling “Obama-trade” and there is little GOP grassroots support for the trade agreements. However large corporations who operate across borders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce do support passing these trade agreements before the next President gets in office and has a chance to add his or her stamp to the final agreement. A bipartisan group of Senators led by the GOP leadership are poised to give those corporations what they want today.
On Thursday, June 18, the Republican House leadership brought back trade legislation to the floor of the US House of Representatives, after Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) was resoundingly defeated on Friday, June 12.
US Senator Jeff Sessions opposed it both times and warns that giving that much power to President Obama is a mistake that will lead to at least three major trade agreements being fast-tracked. The new measure passed the House, although it divided the Alabama delegation.
Sen. Sessions said in a statement, “It is essential that there be no misunderstanding: fast-track preapproves the formation of not only the unprecedentedly large Trans-Pacific Partnership, but an unlimited number of pacts over the next six years. Those pacts include three of the most ambitious ever contemplated. After TPP comes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, followed by the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), seeking as its goal labor mobility among more than 50 nations. Together, these three international compacts encompass three-fourths of the world’s GDP. Including the nations whose membership is being courted for after enactment, the countries involved would encompass nearly 90 percent of global GDP.”
Sen. Sessions continued, “According to the European Commission, the TiSA agreement—which most House and Senate members did not know about when they voted—will follow in the footsteps of the WTO’s Trade in Services Provisions, which has already inhibited the US from making needed immigration changes. The European Commission says the EU ‘wants as many countries as possible to join the agreement.’ We have already seen how the EU has curtailed sovereignty in Europe; we do not want to follow in its footsteps.”
The conservative Senator from Alabama warned, “This nation has never seen an agreement that compares to the TPP, which forms a new Pacific Union. This is far more than a trade agreement, but creates a self-governing and self-perpetuating Commission with extraordinary implications for American workers and American sovereignty…Such a historic international regulatory Commission should never be fast-tracked, and should never be put on a path to passage until every word has been publicly scrutinized, every question answered, and every last power understood by Congress and the American people.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued the following statement Thursday following passage of the President’s trade agenda:
“Today, the House continues its work to advance the people’s priorities. Republicans are working with Democrats in the House and Senate to pass trade promotion authority. We’re committed to ensuring that both trade promotion authority and trade adjustment assistance pass the House and Senate and go to the president for his signature. Getting this work done is critical to expanding opportunities for American workers and American-made goods.”
Senator Jeff Sessions was a US District Attorney for North Alabama, Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, and Alabama Attorney General before being elected US Senator following the retirement of Sen. Howell Heflin (D).