Like many conservatives, I have enormous admiration for Charles Krauthammer.
However, I must part company with him where it concerns giving President Obama fast track authority on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):
One group of GOP opponents are traditional protectionists of the Pat Buchanan paleoconservative school of autarky. The others are conservatives so reflexively anti-Obama that they oppose anything he proposes, especially anything that appears to give him more authority.
Having strongly opposed Obama’s constitutional usurpations on immigration, health care, criminal justice and environmental regulation, I’m deeply sympathetic to that concern. But in this case, there is no usurpation. There is no congressional forfeiture of power. Fast track has been the norm for 81 years. And the final say on any trade agreement rests entirely with Congress.
Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority in the Trade Act back in 1974 so I’m not sure why Krauthammer is bringing FDR into it. But if we accept that fast track has been the “norm” for eight decades doesn’t mean it passes constitutional muster. FDR wasn’t exactly a stickler for the Constitution. Consider what Phyllis Schafly wrote a couple of days ago:
Fast Track consolidates power in the executive branch and eliminates Congress’ constitutional power to amend or even debate trade legislation. Fast Track allows only a specified up-or-down vote on this momentous international agreement without any public oversight or ability to amend it or filibuster it.
Schafly goes on to argue:
Fast Track turns over some of our authority as a sovereign nation to international authorities, which is a major longtime goal of the internationalists, the so-called kingmakers, and big business lobbyists. The code language that hides this in TPP is the statement that calls it a “living agreement.”
This means Obama and his executive-branch pals can take all kinds of actions that Article I of the U.S. Constitution reserves to the legislative branch, such as ratifying or changing a treaty and controlling immigration.
I should note here that Schafly’s opposition to fast track authority doesn’t apply solely to President Obama. She opposed Congress giving President Bush fast track authority in December 2001 when NAFTA was expanded into Latin America under the Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement. She did not mince words then either:
When it comes to legislative powers over trade matters, the U.S. Constitution is precise. Article I, Section 8, expressly grants Congress the sole power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” and “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.”
The Bush Administration and some Republicans are trying to pass Fast Track, a bill to unconstitutionally transfer those commerce powers to the executive branch. Fast track would give the President and his appointees a blank check to make trade deals with foreign countries.
Needless to say, I am not convinced when Krauthammer argues, “If the complex, detailed horse-trading that is required to nail down an agreement is carried out in the open — especially with multiple parties — the deal never gets done.”
Last I checked, doing things out in the open is Congress’ job. And if a deal doesn’t get done then fine. Isn’t no deal better than a bad deal?
Of course, if a deal is done that doesn’t mean the end of TPP. It is a “living agreement”. So it can be amended without Congress having a say in the matter.
A couple of days ago, Ross made the case that Republicans should support trade liberalization at every opportunity. While I agree with trade liberalization in principle, the process by which it is implemented smells to high heaven. Trade liberalization should not come at the expense of compromising the authority of Congress and undermining The Constitution.
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