Sessions broadside against ‘Fast Track’ for trade deals

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has released a Critical Alert on his Senate website regarding the proposed “Fast Track Authority” being sought by the Obama Administration for negotiation of international trade deals including the upcoming TransPacific Partnership.

Congress has the responsibility to ensure that any international trade agreement entered into by the United States must serve the national interest, not merely the interests of those crafting the proposal in secret. It must improve the quality of life, the earnings, and the per-capita wealth of everyday working Americans. The sustained long-term loss of middle class jobs and incomes should compel all lawmakers to apply added scrutiny to a “fast-track” procedure wherein Congress would yield its legislative powers and allow the White House to implement one of largest global financial agreements in our history—comprising at least 12 nations and nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The request for fast-track also comes at a time when the Administration has established a recurring pattern of sidestepping the law, the Congress, and the Constitution in order to repeal sovereign protections for U.S. workers in deference to favored financial and political allies.

Sessions then lists what he describes as his Top Five Concerns:

  1. Consolidation Of Power In The Executive Branch
  2. Increased Trade Deficits
  3. Ceding Sovereign Authority To International Powers
  4. Currency Manipulation
  5. Immigration Increases

Each of the individual concerns are presented with a wealth of background detail and information to support his case, and echo some of the same concerns raised by the many other opponents of Fast Track Authority and the TPP in general. The final topic in particular relates to a recent effort led by Sessions to investigate H1-B Visa abuse by U.S. employers, as well as Sessions’ long running position as a leading immigration hawk:

The President has circumvented Congress on immigration with serial regularity. But the [Fast Track Authority] would yield new power to the executive to alter admissions while subtracting congressional checks against those actions. This runs contrary to our Founders’ belief, as stated in the Constitution, that immigration should be in the hands of Congress. Granting the President [Fast Track Authority]  could enable controversial changes or increases to a wide variety of visas—such as the H-1B, B-1, E-1, and L-1—including visas that confer foreign nationals with a pathway to a green card and thus citizenship.

Sessions concludes:

Our government must defend the legitimate interests of American workers and American manufacturing on the world stage. The time when this nation can suffer the loss of a single job as a result of a poor trade agreement is over. The public has grown increasingly skeptical of these elaborate proposals, stitched together in secret, and rushed to passage on the solemn promises of their promoters. Too often, these schemes collapse under their own weight. Our job is to raise our own standard of living here in America, not to lower our standard of living to achieve greater parity with the rest of the world. If we want an international trade deal that advances the interests of our own people, then perhaps we don’t need a “fast-track” but a regular track: where the President sends us any proposal he deems worthy and we review it on its own merits.

[sessions.senate.gov]