Obama’s loaded gun on trade

If 2016 does not work out the way every one hopes, Republicans will have nobody to blame but themselves.

Votes in favor of trade authority for President Barack Obama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be albatrosses around the necks of Republican Senators and Congressmen in 2016 — while Democrats will be able to say they voted against it.

Republican Rust Belt Senate seats in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all already being jeopardized thanks to votes by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in favor of the deal.

A recent poll by Democracy for America found two-thirds of voters less likely to reelect Portman if he came out in favor of trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but he voted for it anyway. How exactly do Republicans plan on winning the White House without Ohio?

All this, just to give Obama an extraordinary grant of power to negotiate a treaty that, by the President’s own words, “writes this century’s rules for the world’s economy.”

Yet the Trans-Pacific Partnership won’t do a thing about currency manipulation in Japan and elsewhere — the real unfair trade advantage Pacific nations wield over the U.S.

Instead, it could address everything from climate change to immigration, creating the very real possibility of more Obama unilateral actions on contentious issues without congressional assent.

When the final treaty comes back with all of its blemishes, they will stick to Republicans who blindly supported it. Saying they thought it was a “free trade” deal will not save them.

In the meantime, Republicans are providing Democrats with political cover on an issue that is toxic with their political base. It’s a free pass.

If Obama wanted trade authority so bad, why didn’t Democrats give it to him in 2009 or 2010, when the party had full control of Congress?

Trade promotion authority has lapsed since 2007. And Democrats have waited until Republicans reclaimed majorities in both houses to finally allow the legislation to move — by providing just enough votes to help it pass.

Making matters worse, the trade deal will subvert the Constitution’s treaty clause. A so-called executive-legislative branch agreement — never considered under the original terms and conditions of the Constitution — it will pass with simple majorities in both houses of Congress.

Prior to 1974, commercial treaties, such as the United Kingdom Commerce and Navigation Treaty of 1815, a free trade agreement, required a two-thirds Senate majority to ratify.

Instead the agreement will be fast tracked, meaning that Congress would cede its right to amend the trade deal. Instead, it would be granted an up or down vote — even if it needed to be fixed — and that is the primary reason why Congress must say no.

At a time when Republicans claim to oppose Obama’s unilateral executive actions, why would they now support giving him so much power now?

Giving Obama a loaded gun and trusting him to do the right thing is foolish. Have Members learned nothing from the past six years? The President has not earned this Congress’ trust, and it is time to stop giving it free of charge.

After all, it is not Obama who will be on the ballot in 2016.


Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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