Tuesday, July 12, 2011

White House Does the TPA Two-Step; Hypocrisy Ensues

Today comes news from National Journal [$] that the White House supports a strict reading of Trade Promotion Authority, except, you know, when it doesn't (emphasis mine):
The White House pushed back a last-minute attempt on Monday to prevent it from attaching Trade Adjustment Assistance to the pending free-trade agreement with South Korea after closed-door efforts to find an alternative for its renewal failed.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, sent congressional leaders a letter requesting an unprecedented “mock conference” to reconcile two different versions of the Korea pact that were approved in committee last week. But, Hatch’s last-ditch effort quickly fell flat as the White House continued on what could be the only sure course to renew the program’s funds.

In his letter, Hatch escalated GOP skepticism of the legality of the White House decision to include TAA in the Korea bill and questioned whether the administration has the constitutional authority to choose between the House and Senate versions of the pact.

“Reconciling the two bills is the exclusive prerogative of Congress, a prerogative which cannot rightfully be devolved to the executive branch,” Hatch said. He urged legislative leaders to call a mock conference to reconcile the bills and present the White House with a template for drafting the final legislation.

Trade agreements, however, are not handled like normal legislation and the White House quickly dismissed Hatch’s claim. Bills on pending trade deals with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea are all slated to move through Congress under the protective rules of Trade Promotion Authority.

“Under Trade Promotion Authority, the results of informal ‘mock’ markups are recommendations to the president as he prepares to submit implementing legislation to Congress,” said an Obama administration official. “Both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have now made their recommendations.”...

Trade agreements moving under Trade Promotion Authority are not subject to filibuster or amendment and only require a simple majority for passage in both chambers.

“We’ve made clear that a robust renewal of TAA has to be part of the legislative agenda, and including it on an implementing bill for a trade agreement is the only viable pathway that has emerged,” the administration official said. “So far, no other credible alternatives have been offered to get the trade agreements and TAA done in a timely fashion.”
So, to summarize the White House's arguments:

  • A strict reading of TPA, like, totally precludes unique procedural proposals like Senator Hatch's "mock conference," so his idea is stupid and illegal.  Thus, we're going to ignore it.
  • A liberal reading of TPA, like, totally allows unique procedural proposals like our plan to attach expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance to the US-Korea FTA implementing legislation, so our plan is perfectly appropriate and legal.  Thus, we're going to pursue that plan and ram the TAA-FTA bill down the throats of objecting congressional Republicans.

Behold, unabashed political hackery!  Sigh.

I've already laid out - in excruciating detail - why the Administration's liberal interpretation of TPA is complete and utter nonsense (and dangerous nonsense, at that), and it appears that Senator Hatch's office is raising similar legal objections.  Good for them.  I hope they continue to do so.

But if you disagree (expressly or tacitly) with our legal analysis and thus are totally fine with the Obama administration's liberal interpretation of TPA, then surely you oppose the White House's immediate rejection of Sen. Hatch's "mock conference" scheme, right?  And surely you're incensed - and a little embarrassed - by the administration's clear hypocrisy, right?

Or do you, like the White House, have absolutely no regard for the rule of law?

The silence here - by the media and the Obama administration's supporters (redundant, I know!) - is rather deafening.

No comments: