How the TPA could fast-track Obama’s green agenda

SessionsSen. Jeff Sessions penned an open letter today in Breitbart News asking Congress to not rush through the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill as you’re walking right into Obama’s environmental agenda. If the TPA bill receives a final cloture vote in the Senate Tuesday, it will end up on Obama’s desk and signed into law. This would then allow the president unfettered ability to write complex treaties that can’t be changed or modified by the Legislative branch, and the Senate’s only job would be to rubber-stamp it yeah or nay.

According to Sessions’ open letter to congress, “an enormous amount has been discovered about how the President plans to use this authority ‚Äì information that was either not known or understood when the vote was held.” He goes on to say that the TPA includes a “pledge by this Administration to use the TPA to impose ‘environmental governance.'” In fact, Sessions has just learned that Obama’s  trade representative, Michael Froman, said no treaty would proceed without environmental considerations:

“…we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to agreement…our proposals would enhance international cooperation and create new opportunities for public participation in environmental governance and enforcement…the United States reiterated our bedrock position on enforceability of the entire environment chapter…”

And as the NY Times noted in an editorial, American negotiators have been including enforceable environmental standards in trade agreements since 2007 as “part of a deal between the Bush administration and Senate Democrats.” In other words, previous trade agreements make clear that their trading partners can’t weaken their own environmental laws and must “carry out commitments they had already made under [previous] treaties.” The TPA, however, would allow any treaty to rewrite its own environmental rules and regulations.

This is important because the TPA is also a foreshadowing of the upcoming Paris Climate Talks in early December, where a climate treaty is expected to emerge limiting carbon dioxide emissions globally. If TPA becomes law, all treaties would be fast-tracked by Obama and environmental rules could fall under an existing treaty or even a new one, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Since the TPP (and other large treaties) would likely have its own economic council, it could “change its structure, rules, regulations, and enforcement mechanisms after final ratification.” So instead of a Climate Treaty, which Republicans have vowed to squash, the TPP or any other treaty could institute its own environmental rules and regulations, and completely bypass the will of the Congress. Beginning to understand why Obama is so eager to fast-track TPA?

“This international union,” Sessions writes, “would be able to make determinations impacting U.S. workers in not only trade but environmental, labor, immigration and commercial policy.” Unfortunately for Congress, TPA would prevent them from changing or modifying the language or even sending it back to the president with proposed changes. It would also prevent them from revisiting poorly worded legislation in these “massive agreements,” which are “endlessly complex, with permanent ramifications for American workers and sovereignty.”

Sessions also notes that the TPP is far more than a trade deal. It is an “enduring, self-governing political entity with vast regulatory power.” If the TPA is ratified into law, Obama “would rush it [TPP] through with less legislative scrutiny than a Post Office reform bill.” He also writes that the TPP is just the tip of the treaty iceberg. Currently, there are two additional international pacts that would be subjected to fast-track.

These include the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). All told, they “encompass three-fourths of the world economy, and up to ninety percent of the world economy when including countries whose membership is being courted.” More disturbing is that the texts of the these two treaties have remained completely secret and are “unreviewable by lawmakers.”

Worse still, TPA would “authorize the Executive [branch] to sign them before Congress votes,” not the other way around. And only then would the President be obligated to send Congress the actual legislation, at which time it could not be amended, revised, or changed. Senators couldn’t filibuster, and it wouldn’t require the accepted two-thirds vote needed to pass. TPA would also prevent them from debating it for more than 20 hours.

Democrats, backed largely by Unions, don’t want U.S. jobs fast-tracked out of the U.S., and Republicans think the bill would give them unbridled authority in overseeing any future treaties. But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Fast-tracking was only intended for trivial matters like tariffs, not for “forming a political and economic union.” The fact that Obama actually went to Capital Hill to ‘whip’ up votes for TPA among his own party should give justifiable pause to Republicans.

“Congress must retain its powers of amendment and review, as well as its treaty powers, for agreements that clearly extend far beyond trade,” Session concludes. “And Congress must protect the power of the individual citizen to control those who would seek to control them.”