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Senate Democrats Block Fast-Track Trade Bill

author Published by Chris Chmielenski

The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that would grant Pres. Obama fast-track negotiating power over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement was blocked by Senate Democrats today in a mostly party line vote. While NumbersUSA takes no position on trade bills in general, we oppose TPA because it would strip Congress of its authority to amend future free trade agreements, including any immigration provisions they may contain.

TPA needed 60 votes to come to the floor for debate, but received only 52 with 44 voting against. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) was the lone Democrat to support the motion to begin debate, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was the lone Republican to vote against the motion, but only so he could bring the bill back to the floor for consideration at a later time.

Last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) wrote a five page memo, detailing the negative impacts from past free trade agreements on American workers and their wages through immigration.

There are numerous ways TPA could facilitate immigration increases above current law–and precious few ways anyone in Congress could stop its happening. For instance: language could be included or added into the TPP, as well as any future trade deal submitted for fast-track consideration in the next 6 years, with the clear intent to facilitate or enable the movement of foreign workers and employees into the United States (including intracompany transfers), and there would be no capacity for lawmakers to strike the offending provision.

… at any point during the 6-year life of TPA, the Administration could send Congress a trade deal–or issue an executive action subsequent to a trade deal as part of its implementation–that increased foreign worker entry into the U.S., all while claiming it has never changed immigration law.

Last month, NumbersUSA sent the following notice to Congressional offices.

President Obama has made it abundantly clear that he believes he has virtually unfettered authority to change U.S. immigration law. It should not be surprising, therefore, that his administration is attempting to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement to commit America to immigration increases that Congress has neither debated nor approved. Despite a U.S. labor force participation rate that is at its lowest level since 1978, President Obama wants to use the TPP to further reduce the jobs available to U.S. workers and instead reserve certain jobs for foreign workers under the agreement. It is indefensible that Congress would now consider surrendering even more of its authority over immigration to this President in order to fast track a trade agreement that will harm American workers, and the text of which Congress has not even seen.

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