by Michael Stumo
I was in DC last week. The votes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership do not exist at this time. Big qualifier… “at this time”. Here is what I know.
My education task is, and has been, to show legislators and staffers how trade deals have helped cause our trade deficit, enabled new mercantilism like currency manipulation. I also make sure everyone knows that the government’s own economic projections state that growth will not occur from the TPP, the trade deficit will worsen, and jobs will not be created.
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and anonymous GOP whip team folks have told the press, or us, that the votes for TPP are not there. The non-public declarations have been more assertive than the public ones.
First, the House Democrats overwhelming opposed Fast Track trade authority in June 2015. All voted “no” except 28 Dems. I believe these numbers are about the same for TPP. I have not seen the “yeas” or the “nays” change sides. The 28 “yes” Dems have weathered the storm and only something very new will smarten them up.
Second, the 54 House Republicans who voted against Fast Track are likely “no” votes on TPP. I have not seen them change.
Third, last week 6 more House Republicans distributed a letter to President Obama stating that they were opposed to a Lame Duck vote. These were “yes” on Fast Track so count as switches. They are Candice Miller, Ted Yoho, Tim Murphy, Dave Trott, Bill Shuster and Ed Whitfield. They join three other Republican Fast Track “yes” votes who have switched, Tom Reed, Frank Guinta and Mike Bost. I also know of a couple other Republican “yes on Fast Track” votes that claim to be solid “no” votes now.
(Addendum: After initially posting this article, I see that Elise Stefanik has said she will not vote for TPP “in its current form”.
Fourth, there are a host of Republicans that want to find a way to vote for TPP but have sector/donor specific objections that are holding them back. They have concerns about tobacco industry, financial services and Big Pharma/biologics. These are known as the “fixes”. This class of House Republican is gettable and still thinks free trade agreements result in free trade. The USTR must find a “fix” to their objections or risk losing them. I did not count on them much in the past, but this environment of trade deal skepticism, plus the lack of USTR fixes, is changing my mind a bit for vote purposes.
Fifth, Paul Ryan was challenged in a primary on trade. Ryan handily beat challenger Paul Nehlen on August 9 in a primary. Nehlen railed against Ryan’s “globalist agenda” on trade and immigration. Ryan actually had to spend money in his district during the primary to beat back any chance Nehlen could gain ground. Ryan also was forced to speak to manufacturing employees and others which resulted in him moving further away from the TPP.
All of this comes on top of the fact that both presidential candidates oppose TPP. And a host of conservative organizations and personalities have already stated their opposition to any lame duck session, much less a lame duck session that passes significant legislation. That conservative opposition is on the grounds that lame duck sessions are inherently subject to passing unpopular and far reaching measures when voter accountability is very low.
So we are in good shape but the TPP must officially die. Because the big money globalists are poised to strike if we let up.
After the TPP dies, we need to shift to support a national goal to balance trade as the antidote to the trade deficit and job loss. More on that later.