Tuesday’s maneuvers in the Senate proved to be a sausage-making setback for President Barack Obama’s attempt to secure passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, his signature trade liberalization deal involving the United States and 11 Asian and Pacific nations.
One group voicing strenuous opposition to the trade agreement is Americans for Limited Government, a politically conservative 501(c)(4) advocacy organization which, according to the About page on its website, seeks “to prevent the continued expansion of government.”
A Tuesday, May 12 statement from Americans for Limited Government urged: “Oppose trade authority for Obama on Pacific trade deal.”
The Fairfax, Va. group’s primary objection to the legislation concerns the Constitution’s separation of powers. In a nutshell, the fear is that the agreement’s grant of “fast-track” to the executive branch abrogates the power of the U.S. Senate.
“Fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership that includes language making it a ‘living’ agreement is dangerous as it could lead to a permanent ceding of the Senate’s authority to ratify treaties,” Americans for Limited Government president Rick Manning declared in the statement.
“The push to pass fast track is not about free trade, it is about power. It is about whether Congress trusts President Obama to rewrite the regulatory rules for the world. If you don’t trust Obama, or if you believe the Senate’s two-thirds treaty ratification power should be preserved, you should vote no,” Manning argued.
Manning showed that various right-leaning luminaries support his position including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
These and other Republican opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are joined by a throng of Senate Democrats including Bernie Sanders and, most notably, Elizabeth Warren. Just one Democratic senator, Tom Carper of Delaware, voted for the trade bill.
American labor unions have long been vehemently against the trade liberalization bill. They point to the largely secret nature of the negotiations which created the dozen-nation partnership and their concerns that relatively higher-paid American workers will suffer as a result of freer trade. They say the environment will be harmed. They say large corporations will be the deal’s main beneficiaries.
After Tuesday’s Senate defeat for the trade bill, Obama and the bill’s supporters are huddling to try to figure out how to change a few Senate votes for a likely future round of yeas and nays. For this iteration, 52 senators voted for the bill and 45 voted against it.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should permanently shelve attempts to grant trade authority to President Obama,” Manning urged in a second Tuesday email. “With five Republican presidential aspirants all opposed including Rand Paul, there is no reason for McConnell to waste any more of the Senate’s time on this issue.”
In the event that the Trans-Pacific Partnership ever does pass Congress, it will be the signature achievement of Obama’s second term and one of the most significant international trade deals in modern world history.