House Republicans opposing fast-track authority

Nearly two dozen House Republicans have teamed up to oppose congressional passage of fast-track authority. 

Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.) was joined by 22 of his House Republican colleagues on Tuesday in sending a letter to President Obama expressing opposition to trade promotion authority (TPA), arguing that it gives the White House too much power in negotiating global agreements.

"Some of us have opposed past trade deals and some have supported them, but when it comes to fast track, members of Congress from across the political spectrum are united,” Jones said.  

The letter argues that the Constitution gives Congress exclusive authority over trade because it "would provide the best way to grow the economy, create U.S. jobs and most benefit the American people.” 

Senate Finance Committee leaders from both parties renewed their calls last week for the Obama administration to work with them on a framework for fast-track legislation. 

Last week, Business Roundtable President John Engler argued that fast-track authority is needed so that Congress can set the negotiating details for trade agreements. 

He lamented that Congress hasn't moved forward with a measure because it would "strengthen the hand of U.S. trade negotiators" as they conduct talks around the world. 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be completed by the end of the year and the United States is working through the second round of talks on a trade deal between the world's two largest trading partners.

In constructing TPA, the idea is that Congress and the White House would work together to include elements they want in global trade agreements, smoothing the process for getting them through the House and Senate once they reach that point. 

On Wednesday, a group of House Democrats will discuss a letter detailing their concerns with the lack of congressional consultation throughout the TPP talks. They also are expected to outline their opposition to renewing fast-track to bring the TPP, and potentially other trade agreements, before the House.

The House GOP letter argues that power to dictate the contents of trade deals has, in the past couple of decades or so, shifted from Congress to the presidency and "recent presidents have seized Congress’ constitutional trade authority and also "diplomatically legislated" on numerous other matters under congressional jurisdiction using TPA.

Under fast-track, the House or Senate approve or disapprove trade deals without amendment. 

"Given these factors, we do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for trade promotion authority. 

More in House

Republican calls for debate on authorizing force

Read more »