Senator Reads the TPP and Exposes Its Contents; Other Elected Officials Should Do the Same

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Sen. Jeff Sessions, speaking to the press. (Photo: Talk Radio News Service)

Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, speak­ing to the press. (Pho­to: Talk Radio News Ser­vice)

Sen­a­tor Jeff Ses­sions (R‑AL) is one of the few mem­bers of Con­gress who has tak­en the time to jump through the hoops and read the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship (TPP). But, he has gone a step far­ther than oth­er mem­bers — he told mem­bers of Con­gress what he read. He told the truth about what the TPP says and why Con­gress should oppose it in a five page let­ter to his colleagues.

Ses­sions’ action flies in the face of the threats made by the US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to pros­e­cute elect­ed offi­cials who tell peo­ple what is in the trade agree­ment. Oth­ers should fol­low his exam­ple and get out the truth about the TPP.

The debate in the Sen­ate begins on Tues­day, May 19. This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Sen­a­tors to tell their col­leagues the truth about what is in the TPP.  Ses­sions’ “Dear Col­league” let­ter was leaked and report­ed in Bre­it­bart.  Sen­a­tors from both par­ties may want to take a sim­i­lar approach. Even bet­ter, dur­ing the debate on the Sen­ate floor there will be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for amend­ments that expose prob­lems with the TPP. Sen­a­tors can tell their col­leagues and, through C‑SPAN, their con­stituents the truth about what is in the TPP.

How Sen­a­tor Ses­sions Exposed the Truth About TPP

Bre­it­bart has writ­ten two arti­cles on Ses­sions’ rev­e­la­tions. In “Crit­i­cal Alert: Jeff Ses­sions Warns Amer­i­ca Against Poten­tial­ly Dis­as­trous Oba­ma Trade Deal,” they report:

 ‘Con­gress has the respon­si­bil­i­ty to ensure that any inter­na­tion­al trade agree­ment entered into by the Unit­ed States must serve the nation­al inter­est, not mere­ly the inter­ests of those craft­ing the pro­pos­al in secret,’ Ses­sions’ team writes in a doc­u­ment that lays out the top five con­cerns with the Oba­ma trade deal. ‘It must improve the qual­i­ty of life, the earn­ings, and the per-capi­ta wealth of every­day work­ing Amer­i­cans. The sus­tained long-term loss of mid­dle class jobs and incomes should com­pel all law­mak­ers to apply added scruti­ny to a ‘fast-track’ pro­ce­dure where­in Con­gress would yield its leg­isla­tive pow­ers and allow the White House to imple­ment one of largest glob­al finan­cial agree­ments in our his­to­ry — com­pris­ing at least 12 nations and near­ly 40 per­cent of the world’s GDP.’ …

The Ses­sions doc­u­ment then goes point-by-point for five full pages through the TPA trade deal, lay­ing out why it would­n’t help Amer­i­cans — rather, it would like­ly hurt Amer­i­can work­ers — and why the deal does­n’t in fact pro­vide Con­gress with more pow­er over trade despite talk­ing points from the Oba­ma trade deal’s proponents …”

The sec­ond arti­cle in Bre­it­bart, “Only Two Repub­li­cans Admit They Have Actu­al­ly Read Secret Oba­ma Trade Deal — Both Unsup­port­ive” reports on a sur­vey they did of Sen­ate Repub­li­cans where they asked three ques­tions: (1) Have you read the TPP, specif­i­cal­ly the ‘liv­ing agree­ment’ in the trade deal that allows the deal to be changed and coun­tries added with­out con­gres­sion­al review? (2) Does the Sen­a­tor agree with Sen. Ses­sions’ call to make the TPP avail­able to the pub­lic? And, (3) Will the Sen­a­tor vote for fast track Trade Pro­mo­tion Author­i­ty (TPA) if the TPP has­n’t been stripped of the ‘liv­ing agree­ment’ sec­tion that would allow coun­tries to amend the deal with­out Con­gres­sion­al approval, and to even add coun­tries (like Chi­na, if they want­ed to) to the deal with­out Con­gres­sion­al approval?

Bre­it­bart reports that one addi­tion­al Sen­a­tor, James Lank­ford (R‑OK) was sched­uled to read the TPP on Fri­day, May 16.  Inter­est­ing­ly, the Okla­homa leg­is­la­ture recent­ly passed a res­o­lu­tion urg­ing their fed­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives to vote against fast track trade authority.

While the US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive has threat­ened mem­bers of Con­gress with crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion for telling oth­ers what is in the TPP, they have made no threat to Sen­a­tor Ses­sions. No doubt if they did so, fast track and the TPP would be dead because the years of work by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to move this for­ward in secret would be over, and as the first trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, Ambas­sador Ron Kirk, told the media “if the Amer­i­can peo­ple knew what was in this agree­ment it would nev­er become law.”

The Truth About Trade Is Need­ed Right Now

We are in the crit­i­cal phase of debate about the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship and oth­er rigged cor­po­rate trade agree­ments.  While Speak­er of the House, John Boehn­er (R‑OH) has promised to pub­lish all bills before they are vot­ed on, he has not even read the TPP and def­i­nite­ly has not required it be made pub­lic.  While the fast track bill can be read, the TPP is dif­fer­ent; elect­ed offi­cials have lim­it­ed access to it and they are not allowed to dis­cuss what they read.  So, the Con­gress is tying its hands on the TPP and oth­er deals, with­out know­ing what is in them and there­by shirk­ing their con­sti­tu­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty under the Com­merce Clause which directs Con­gress “To reg­u­late Com­merce with for­eign Nations.”

Now, it becomes even more impor­tant because Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has repeat­ed­ly chid­ed mem­bers of Con­gress for being inac­cu­rate about what is in the TPP, even com­par­ing Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D‑MA) to Sarah Palin talk­ing about death pan­els.  He makes the claim that Con­gress does not know what it is talk­ing about while keep­ing the agree­ment secret and dif­fi­cult for elect­ed offi­cials and their staff to read. On top of that Oba­ma and his admin­is­tra­tion con­sis­tent­ly put out false and mis­lead­ing state­ments about the agree­ment.  One won­ders, and I hope the media begins to ask him, whether Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has read the agree­ment? As Rep. Louise Slaugh­ter (D‑NY) said in response: “We know exact­ly what we’re talk­ing about. My con­cern is that he does not under­stand what’s in it.”

Oba­ma crit­i­cized War­ren for claim­ing that the TPP would under­mine fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion of banks. If the lan­guage of the TPP were released we could see if he is accu­rate. But, after their argu­ment on this issue, Cana­di­an Finance Min­is­ter, Joe Oliv­er, bol­stered War­ren’s posi­tion by claim­ing that bank­ing reg­u­la­tion that requires banks to invest with only their own mon­ey vio­lates NAFTA.

The pres­i­dent has claimed that his deals are the most pro­gres­sive trade agree­ments ever and fix the prob­lems of NAFTA “by mak­ing labor and envi­ron­men­tal pro­vi­sions actu­al­ly enforce­able.” Yet, a leak of the envi­ron­men­tal chap­ter actu­al­ly shows the oppo­site — there is no envi­ron­men­tal enforce­ment and the pro­tec­tions are weak­er than agree­ments dur­ing the George W. Bush era.

The pres­i­dent also makes the claim that “no trade agree­ment is going to force us to change our laws.” This is an out­ra­geous claim because all pre­vi­ous trade agree­ments have required the US to har­mo­nize its laws with the agree­ment.  How can they not? The TPP, accord­ing to leaks, changes laws around patents and trade­marks. How can the TPP say one thing about intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and US law say anoth­er? They must be har­mo­nized. Elect­ed offi­cials who have read the text can explain dif­fer­ences between US law and the TPP — what laws will have to change? For exam­ple will pop­u­lar laws favor­ing buy­ing Amer­i­can prod­ucts sur­vive the TPP? The Finance Com­mit­tee refused to approve an amend­ment that would pro­tect Buy America.

Cer­tain­ly Pres­i­dent Oba­ma knows that his Orga­niz­ing For Amer­i­ca is being com­plete­ly mis­lead­ing when in an email: “argued that the term ‘fast track’ for TPA was a mis­nomer because TPA would have to go through Con­gress like any oth­er bill.” OFA and Oba­ma know the debate is not whether fast track has to go through Con­gress in the nor­mal fash­ion but whether trade agree­ments will be fast tracked.  Why would the pres­i­dent and OFA be so obvi­ous­ly mis­lead­ing? Are they desperate?

Ralph Nad­er has sug­gest­ed that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma debate Sen­a­tor War­ren on the TPP. This would be one way to get to the truth, hear both sides debate in pub­lic so we can all decide for our­selves whether this is an agree­ment that should be fast tracked through Con­gress out­side of the tra­di­tion­al con­gres­sion­al process. But a pres­i­dent that has worked for his entire tenure in office to keep the TPP and oth­er rigged agree­ments out of the pub­lic dia­logue will cer­tain­ly not take up this suggestion.

Con­gress Is in Posi­tion to Expose the TPP

Now, at this key moment in the debate, mem­bers of Con­gress who have tak­en the time to view the TPP are in a posi­tion to get out the truth.

The debate in the Sen­ate with its open amend­ment process is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell the truth about all the issues in the TPP so there can final­ly be a pub­lic debate about trade agree­ments that will impact every aspect of our lives.

In the House, Repub­li­cans should be shar­ing the com­ments of Sen­a­tor Ses­sions for a sol­id Repub­li­can cri­tique of fast track for the TPP and oth­er agree­ments. Democ­rats should be high­light­ing key sen­ate amend­ments to their cau­cus to high­light short­com­ings.  And those who have read the TPP should share what they learned in order to strength­en oppo­si­tion to fast track in the face of what will be a mas­sive Oba­ma effort to change their minds.

Those who oppose the TPP have the tools need­ed to win this debate, stop fast track and stop the TPP and oth­er rigged agree­ments. If we suc­ceed, we will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rethink glob­al trade in light of two decades of expe­ri­ence with a failed mod­el. It will be an oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op trade so that it pro­tects the plan­et and rais­es the stan­dard of liv­ing for peo­ple around the world. To achieve that oppor­tu­ni­ty, the first task is to expose the truth of what is before us.

Copy­right, Reprint­ed with per­mis­sion —