By: Nancy Salvato
In an article by Connor Wolf called This Is The Difference Between TPP And TPA (Hint: They Are Not The Same Thing), he explains that these two bills are linked together because Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is a means to fast track passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I am confused by this line of reasoning because as a stand-alone bill, TPA is intended to provide transparency to all trade negotiations by soliciting public and congressional input throughout the process, however, TPP as a stand-alone bill, is a behemoth and most of the information to which the public has access has been leaked. Furthermore, it was negotiated behind closed doors. According to the verbiage of TPA, if TPP is not negotiated using TPA guidelines, the fast track option is negated. So why do news outlets and a wide range of legislators portray these two bills disingenuously? Bundling the TPA and TPP as one idea called Obamatrade is no different than bundling immigration reform and border security, which are two separate issues. One is about drug cartels and terrorism and the other is about how we manage people who want to immigrate to the United States.
Challenges TPA hopes to remedy throughout the negotiating process and in resulting trade agreements have parallels to challenges facing the US and its allies when agreeing to make war on the foreign stage. While one president may assure allies that US troops will assist in gaining and maintaining freedom, i.e., Iraq, a new administration or congress may change the terms, leaving a foreign country abandoned, with the understanding that the US cannot be relied upon to meet its agreed upon obligations. When negotiating foreign trade agreements, this same realization comes into play when negotiations that took place in good faith are undermined by a new administration or congress that change the terms. TPA hopes to create a set of consistent negotiating objectives when hammering out trade agreements, allowing agreements to transcend administrations and congresses.
The following excerpts from a letter written to President Obama from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R, AL) would alarm any person who understands the division of powers and checks and balances built into our rule of law. Posted in Exclusive–Sessions to Obama: Why Are You Keeping Obama Trade’s New Global Governance Secret? Sessions explains:
“Under fast-track, Congress transfers its authority to the executive and agrees to give up several of its most basic powers.”
“These concessions include: the power to write legislation, the power to amend legislation, the power to fully consider legislation on the floor, the power to keep debate open until Senate cloture is invoked, and the constitutional requirement that treaties receive a two-thirds vote.”
Understanding that Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Representative Paul Ryan have gotten behind TPA, it would be short sited and irresponsible not to probe further into why they aren’t exposing these violations of our rule of law.
According to The Hill’s Daniel Horowitz in TPA’s ‘Whoa, if true’ moment, Cruz and Ryan have explained, “most of the content of the bill is actually requirements on the executive branch to disclose information to Congress and consult with Congress on the negotiations.” Congress would be informed on the front end, as opposed to debating and making changes to what was already negotiated. This is important because as Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome and K. William Watson explain in Don’t Drink the Obamatrade Snake Oil:
Although trade agreements provide a mechanism for overcoming political opposition to free trade, they also create new political problems of their own, most of which stem from the inherent conflict in the U.S. Constitution between the power granted to Congress to “regulate commerce with foreign nations” (Article I, Section 8) and that granted to the president to negotiate treaties (Article II, Section 2) and otherwise act as the “face” of U.S. international relations. In short, the executive branch is authorized to negotiate trade agreements that escape much of the legislative sausage-making that goes in Washington, but, consistent with the Constitution, any such deals still require congressional approval—a process that could alter the agreement’s terms via congressional amendments intended to appease influential constituents. The possibility that, after years of negotiations, an unfettered Congress could add last-minute demands to an FTA (or eliminate its biggest benefits) discourages all but the most eager U.S. trading partners to sign on to any such deal.
TPA, also known as “fast track,” was designed to fix this problem. TPA is an arrangement between the U.S. executive and legislative branches, under which Congress agrees to hold a timely, up-or-down vote (i.e., no amendments) on future trade agreements in exchange for the president agreeing to follow certain negotiating objectives set by Congress and to consult with the legislative branch before, during, and after FTA negotiations. In essence, Congress agrees to streamline the approval process as long as the president negotiates agreements that it likes.
For a really good argument for fast tracking, watch the video that can be found here:
K. William Watson explains in What’s Really in the New Trade Promotion Authority Bill? TPA will actually bring more transparency to the negotiating process:
The current bill would require the administration to provide public summaries of its negotiating positions. This will give the public something concrete to debate without having to resort to conspiracy claims or wild theories. It will also help everyone see more clearly how negotiators intend to implement the negotiating objectives of TPA.
It will also require that every member of Congress has access to the full text of the negotiations from beginning to end.
If TPA actually does what it is intended, a bill like TPP could not possibly be held to an up or down vote because it would not have been negotiated using the processes as outlined. Or could it? This administration passed Obamacare, which is a tax; they wanted comprehensive immigration reform and secure borders yet they openly courted Latin American countries to bring their kids to the border; they said they’d be the most transparent administration but there has been a dramatic lack of transparency, one must pass the bill before knowing what’s in it.
Perhaps what it all boils down to is what Rick Helfenbein writes about in Trade promotion authority, a Washington drama:
There are other conservatives like Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) who remain adamantly opposed to giving the president (presumed) additional authority. Jones said of Obama and TPA: “Given his record, I am astonished that some of my colleagues are so eager to fork over even more of their constitutional authority to the [p]resident for him to abuse.”
While this article addresses the issue of TPA, it doesn’t begin to address the arguments against TPP, for example The Guardian’s C. Robert Gibson and Taylor Channing’s conclusion that, “Fast-tracking the TPP, meaning its passage through Congress without having its contents available for debate or amendments, was only possible after lots of corporate money exchanged hands with senators.” That is an article for another day.
Nancy Salvato directs the Constitutional Literacy Program for BasicsProject.org, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country. She is a graduate of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ National Academy for Civics and Government. She is the author of “Keeping a Republic: An Argument for Sovereignty.” She also serves as a Senior Editor for NewMediaJournal.us and is a contributing writer to Constituting America. Her education career includes teaching students from pre-k to graduate school. She has also worked as an administrator in higher education. Her private sector efforts focus on the advancement of constitutional literacy.
By: Andrew Kopas – Guest Columnist
Stand Up America
With the recent shooting in Ferguson and deaths in New York City and Baltimore of residents there involved in criminal activity at the time of their arrests, there is an outcry from the likes of civil rights activist Al Sharpton and others for nullification of state’s rights and the takeover of local and state police forces nationwide by the Federal Government, specifically by the Executive Branch.
In all of this, keep in mind that Obama has very successfully used “straw man” arguments to advance his objectives. In this particular case, the “straw man” argument being put forward is that all law enforcement agencies across America are inherently racist and that only his takeover of them will fix these racist organizations.
He has essentially painted a bull’s eye on the backs of our local and state law enforcement personnel and endorsed instead the criminal element in America that has responded by assassination style shootings of law enforcement personnel in NYC and most recently in Mississippi as well.
The nationalization of our local and state police forces is indeed a very bad idea and should be adamantly opposed by both the states and the general populace for several reasons.
First and foremost, it would bring ALL organized armed personnel, namely the American Military, Homeland Security, and all local and state police under the direct control of one man, namely Obama and any future Presidents of the United States.
That would in turn allow for tremendous abuses of that power that we have already seen in this Administration, such as use of the IRS and DHS against what he perceives to be his domestic enemies, namely anyone who opposes him and his policies.
Secondly, if he decided to fully seize power and set aside the limitations of the Office of President imposed on him by the Constitution of the United States, which he has already done in a number of particulars such as with illegal immigration, failure to enforce DOMA, bypassing Congress unilaterally in matters of treaty negotiations, etc., there would be no armed force except the American people directly to stop him.
But without organization and leadership, the probability of that successfully happening on a national scale is remote.
In fact, he could use all of the organized armed forces at his disposal, including local and state police who would be under his direct control, to put down any such opposition that the people might undertake.
As reported in The Daily Bell on December 7, 2011, as early as 2009 Obama advocated “a civilian police force to match the size and power of our armed forces.” One has to ask the question “Why” such national control is required vs. local law enforcement properly trained and equipped to deal with any domestic terrorist threats?
His expansion of the Homeland Security Department has followed that pronouncement, as has his use of the NSA to go far beyond its mandate and monitor the communications of every man, woman and child in America.
And the fact that he is actively promoting and funding illegal immigration on a massive scale in America today without screening for terrorists crossing our borders begs the question of if he indeed wants to see an increase in domestic terrorist attacks like we have seen in many places across the USA such as at Ft. Hood, Oklahoma, Boston and most recently in Garland, Texas with the expressed purpose of forcing the need for such a national police force under his direct control to put down such attacks?
Obama has gone on record on more than one occasion to praise the Chinese Communist form of government and other authoritarian regimes that are essentially dictatorships based on central government control over all aspects of their citizens’ lives including how many children they can have, how they worship, how they communicate with each other over the Internet, and even how they assemble.
Do we want a man with the belief that an authoritarian form of government is preferable to a democratically elected government with clear separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches as set for in our Constitution to have the kind of unlimited power that nationalization of our local and state law enforcement agencies would give him?
By: Benjamin Weingarten
What, if anything, would cause President Barack Obama to step away from the negotiating table with Iran?
This is the question I find myself pondering in light of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy Patrol’s unchecked act of aggression on Tuesday against America’s interests in the Straits of Hormuz – an act that in a sane world would in and of itself put an end to the president’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran.
As of this writing, reports indicate that the Iranian Navy Patrol fired shots at and ultimately seized a commercial cargo ship, the M/V Maersk Tigris, which flies under the Marshall Islands flag. Some believe Iran was even targeting a U.S. vessel.
In a helpful dispatch, commentator Omri Ceren notes the significant implications of such an action given that the U.S. is: (i) Treaty-bound to secure and defend the Marshall Islands, and (ii) Committed to maintaining the free flow of commerce in the strategically vital waterways of the Middle East — as affirmed just one week ago on April 21 by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and Pentagon Spokesman Col. Steve Warren.
The U.S. fulfilling its obligations to its protectorate, and acting to ensure vital shipping lanes remain open are not trivial matters.
Further, this act can be seen as a brazen test of the sincerity of U.S. resolve, as it was timed to coincide with the opening of the Senate’s debate on the Corker-Menendez Iran bill.
Yet there is a broader and perhaps more important context in which to consider what Ceren calls an act of “functionally unspinnable Iranian aggression.”
Even if we ignore the history of Iranian aggression against the U.S. and its allies since the deposal of the Shah in 1979, the firing upon and seizing of the Tigris marks the latest in a long series of such provocations that Iran has undertaken in just the last few months. Consider:
- On February 25 the Iranian Revolutionary Guard blew up a replica U.S. aircraft carrier during defense drills
- On March 24 it was reported that the Iranian regime had increased its naval threats against the U.S., including “[T]hreats to take over and sink American aircraft carriers and other warships; to close the Strait of Hormuz and Bab El-Mandeb; to carry out large-scale missile attacks inside and outside the Persian Gulf; and to mine the Persian Gulf”
- On March 31 Basij militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard stated that “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable”
- On April 1 it was reported that an Iranian military observation aircraft had “buzzed” an armed U.S. navy helicopter over the Persian Gulf during March 2015
- On April 12 it was reported that Iran had been working to deliver surface-to-air missiles to the Houthis in Yemen
- On April 13 it was reported that Iran had increased arm shipments to Hezbollah and Hamas
- On April 14 Russia lifted its ban on the sale of missiles to Iran, no doubt with the firm support of the Iranians
- On April 17 it was reported that Iran was sending an armada of seven to nine ships – some with weapons – toward Yemen
- On April 18 Iran celebrated Army Day with calls of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”
- On April 19 the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s deputy leader Gen. Hossein Salami declared that there would be no inspections of military sites under any nuclear deal, threatening “We will respond with hot lead [bullets] to those who speak of it…;” and
- On April 24 the Iranian Navy Patrol intercepted the Maersk Kensington, a U.S.-flagged vessel
This rhetoric and action comports with Iran’s historic hostility toward the U.S. since the fall of the Shah. Lest we forget, this list of atrocities includes, but is certainly not limited to:
- The 1983 bombing of the U.S. army barracks in Beirut
- Aiding and abetting Al Qaeda with respect to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on our nation
- Funding, training and arming terrorists responsible for slaying American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
Would Iran’s most recent actions in the Strait of Hormuz coupled with the litany of other recent and historical bellicose acts lead one to question whether it is in the United States’ interest to continue negotiating with the mullahs?
Put more directly: In what respect can the U.S. consider Iran to be a reliable, honorable negotiating partner?
Concerning the content of the nuclear deal being negotiated, it should be noted that the Iranians have stated the agreement accomplishes the very opposite of what the American public been led to believe. With respect to sanctions, Iran says they will be fully lifted upon the execution of the accord. As MEMRI notes, in an April 9 address, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini gave a speech in which he called America a “cheater and a liar” and
publicly set out the negotiating framework for the Iranian negotiating team, the main points of which are: an immediate lifting of all sanctions the moment an agreement is reached; no intrusive oversight of Iran’s nuclear and military facilities; the continuation of Iran’s nuclear research and development program; and no inclusion of any topics not related to the nuclear program, such as missile capability or anything impacting Iran’s support for its proxies in the region.
It is no wonder then that the nuclear deal has been lambasted on a bipartisan basis, including at the highest levels of the national security establishment. Even former Secretary of State James Baker is highly critical of the Iran deal – and his animus toward Israel, perhaps the primary casualty of the deal, may be second only to that of President Obama.
As to whether Khameini’s portrayal of the deal is accurate, former CIA analyst and Iran expert Fred Fleitz asserts that under the terms of the agreement, Iran will (i) be able to continue enriching uranium, (ii) not have to disassemble or destroy any enrichment equipment or facilities, (iii) not be required to “permit snap inspections and unfettered access to all Iranian nuclear facilities, including military bases where Iran is believed to have conducted nuclear-weapons work,” (iv) be able to continue to operate its Arak heavy-water reactor, a plutonium source, in contravention of IAEA resolutions and (v) be subjected to an eased sanctions regime that will be incredibly difficult to re-impose.
If this were not enough, so intent is the Obama Administration on reaching a deal that it has been reported that for signing this agreement, Iran may even receive sweeteners including a $50 billion “signing bonus.”
The contorted logic used by the president in defense of his progressive stance towards Iran is worthy of Neville Chamberlain. During an interview with New York Times soulmate Thomas Friedman, Obama opined:
Even for somebody who believes, as I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu believes, that there is no difference between Rouhani and the supreme leader and they’re all adamantly anti-West and anti-Israel and perennial liars and cheaters — even if you believed all that, this still would be the right thing to do. It would still be the best option for us to protect ourselves. In fact, you could argue that if they are implacably opposed to us, all the more reason for us to want to have a deal in which we know what they’re doing and that, for a long period of time, we can prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.
Sen. Tom Cotton provides a necessary corrective in a recent interview:
I am skeptical that there are many moderates within the [Iranian] leadership … I think it’s kind of like the search for the vaunted moderates in the Kremlin throughout most of the Cold War, with the exception that we could always count on the Soviet leadership to be concerned about national survival in a way that I don’t think we can count on a nuclear-armed Iranian leadership to be solely concerned about national survival.
As for Lord Chamberlain, Sen. Cotton – he of that irksome letter to Iran — takes a more charitable view, noting:
It’s unfair to Neville Chamberlain to compare him to Barack Obama, because Neville Chamberlain’s general staff was telling him he couldn’t confront Hitler and even fight to a draw—certainly not defeat the German military—until probably 1941 or 1942. He was operating from a position of weakness. With Iran, we negotiated privately in 2012-2013 from a position of strength … not just inherent military strength of the United States compared to Iran, but also from our strategic position.
To those who recognize reality, this deal – coupled with our weak response to the ongoing provocations of the Iranian Government — not only threatens our national security and that of our allies, but reflects an utter dereliction of duty to uphold the Constitution, and protect our people against foreign enemies.
In a word, it is treasonous.
Mark Levin exposes the treachery in the US Senate today, who he says just capitulated completely to Obama by gutting their own constitutional duty to approve treaties, giving it solely to Obama. So in short, Obama can make a treaty with the Islamo-Nazis in Iran without submitting it to the Senate and the Senate can only stop it if they can get enough nays to vote against it.