President Obama and his useful idiots are asking Congress to give him the power to fast track the TransPacific Partnership, a sweeping international regulatory agreement the White House describes as “rules for the world’s economy” – and for the U.S. TPP regulates everything from the environment and energy (climate change, anyone?) to minimum wages, food and, most notably, immigration.
The extraordinary fast track power he’s asking for would enable Obama to sideline Congress and pass his global regulatory scheme with a simple majority in both houses of Congress, rather than the two-thirds supermajority in the Senate the Constitution requires for treaties. Congress could not change any of the rules Obama has been writing, in secret, in his “Partnership” agreement over the past six years, and the White House would not be obligated to follow any directives Congress offers on what those rules should look like.
To sell the constitutionally suspect power grab known as trade promotion authority to an increasingly skeptical Congress, Obama’s shills are saying “Congress should provide this president with the same authority in terms of trade promotion that every president’s had since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”
Like so much else that comes from this administration, it’s a lie.
Here’s the truth:
Nancy Pelosi refused to give George W. Bush fast track trade promotion authority.
The Republican House refused fast track power for Bill Clinton in 1998.
And Ronald Reagan did not have fast track trade promotion authority when he concluded the most ambitious trade negotiations since the 1940s.
This is significant because Obama’s apologists tell us complex trade agreements can’t be done without fast track, without shutting out Congress.
But the Uruguay Round involved 125 countries. It was complex and controversial. The negotiations dealt with far more than tariffs – intellectual property and trade-related investments, agricultural and industrial subsidies, and extending trade rules to developing countries were all on the table.
So how did Ronald Reagan do it without fast track trade promotion authority?
A man who was at the negotiating table will tell you: Charlie Blum was assistant U.S. trade representative for multilateral negotiations in the Reagan administration from 1985 to 1988.
“Without a formal congressional grant of authority, the Reagan administration worked intensively to build a consensus with both Congress and the private sector. These efforts included regular consultations with Ways and Means and Finance Committee staff after each negotiating session in Geneva. There were regular meetings with industry and labor advisers to review in detail the negotiating objectives and to obtain private-sector advice on them. And there were scores of meetings with industry associations and coalitions, with a special outreach to sectors showing the least interest in and greatest skepticism of the proposed negotiations,” Charlie Blum writes in Manufacturing and Technology News.
Obama’s apologists tell us Congress can’t be involved: No country would go out on a limb and put its best offer on the table if they thought Congress could amend the final agreement, they say. But Reagan put the lie to the notion that we have to ditch the Constitution and Congress if we’re going to participate in “the global economy.”
“Feedback from continuous consultations with Congress and the private sector strengthened the hand of American negotiators,” Blum writes. When American negotiators sat down with their counterparts from 125 other nations to write the final accord, “the U.S. delegation had demonstrated to the world that it had broad backing from Congress and the private sector” and its objectives were approved unanimously.
Reagan achieved an agreement through open discussion with Congress, the representatives of the sovereign people of the USA. This stands in stark contrast to the hyper-secrecy cloaking the Obama’s TransPacific Partnership talks.
In its contempt for constitutional government, this administration would have us believe Congress has no role in diplomacy, whether it’s Iranian nukes or trade agreements.
Giving Obama fast track trade promotion authority to turn Congress into a rubber stamp for an agreement that is nearly complete and largely unknown would be an endorsement of this administration’s underhandedness, secrecy and disrespect for the Constitution.
As Nancy Reagan put it, Congress should Just Say No.
She, and Ronnie, had it right.