When it comes to the issue of Trade Promotion Authority and the Transpacific Partnership, there are at least two lines of thinking among Republican legislators in Congress. Many, like Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), have come out in support of TPA & TPP, while others, like Representative Thomas Massie (KY-4), oppose them. Although billed “Obamatrade” by its detractors as it is favored by President Obama, it is rather curious that it has more support among Republicans than Democrats. On June 12th, the TPA narrowly passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-210. Broken down by party, Republicans generally favored it (191-54) while Democrats generally opposed it (28-156).
Rather than outline their positions myself, let me present the two representatives in their own words.
First, on April 30, 2015, Representative Goodlatte sent out the following letter:
THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP IS NOT AN IMMIGRATION GIVE-AWAYDear Colleague:No one believes more strongly than do I that our immigration laws should be written by Congress and not negotiated in trade agreements. In 2003, I and other Members sent a letter to Ambassador Robert Zoellick, head of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), stating that:The Constitution grants the legislative branch of the federal government plenary power over immigration law. As the Supreme Court ruled in Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522, 531 (1954), “that the formulation of [immigration] policies is entrusted exclusively to Congress has become about as firmly imbedded in the legislative and judicial tissues of our body politic as any aspect of our government.” The United States Trade Representative’s practice of proposing new immigration law in the context of bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations cannot be reconciled with Congress’s constitutional prerogative. Even worse, when combined with the grant of “fast track” or “trade promotion authority” eliminating the legislature’s ability to amend such proposals, USTR’ s practice has effectively stolen this plenary power away from Congress. We cannot allow this to continue and must thus insist that you never again agree to include immigration provisions in trade agreements. . . .Based on the current draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and assurances from USTR, I am confident that we can vote for the TPP and trade promotion authority without violating the enduring principles set forth in the 2003 letter. To its great credit, USTR has stood up to immense pressure and has refused to agree to “temporary entry” provisions in the TPP that would allow foreign workers to come to America outside of the terms of current congressionally-passed immigration law. Whatever other countries participating in the TPP negotiations agree to regarding temporary entry, the U.S. will not be a signatory. In addition, no one has been more vocal than me in their criticism of the Obama Administration’s attempt to unconstitutionally rewrite our immigration laws through the grant of administrative legalization to millions of unlawful aliens. There is nothing in the current draft of the TPP that will in any way advance or facilitate this or any other unconstitutional action by the Administration.In the TPP negotiations, USTR has acted in good faith and has respected Congress’ constitutionally-granted power to write our nation’s immigration laws. In turn, we should support the TPP and trade promotion authority as a boon to the American economy.Sincerely,Bob GoodlatteChairman House Judiciary Committee
(1) I’ve read the confidential TPP. What struck me most was the enormity of it. Two bound volumes that reference other bound volumes of trade agreements. My staff aren’t allowed to read the document, I’m not allowed to take notes from the room, and I can’t access an Internet browser in the room. How could I possibly understand the unintended consequences of this agreement over the next few decades?
(2) The implications of ceding our sovereignty to the World Trade Organization (#WTO) via trade agreements became painfully obvious to me this week. Congress literally rewrote our food labeling laws to please the WTO. The WTO said we can’t require the country of origin to be on the labels for beef and pork. I voted against removing the labels but the WTO-directed legislation passed anyway.
(3) Phone calls from my constituents are running 30 to 1, opposing versus supporting, the TPA. Some are concerned that this agreement gives this President too much additional authority. Some are concerned about the lack of transparency. These are both valid concerns.
So, given that Goodlatte and Massie seem to be diametrically opposed on this issue, one does have to ask, what is the Republican position on this matter? Generally, Republicans favor free trade, but is the TPA & TPP a bad deal for Americans?