Trade Promotion Authority bill passes with Alabama support

The Capitol Dome is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington July 28, 2011. (AP)

I’ve been in Washington, D.C., all week and the buzz about town has centered around Friday’s vote for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

The bill sets the parameters for negotiating future trade agreements. It set up guidelines for how those agreements will be handled, including allowing members to read the text of the deals 60 days before the president is to sign it. It also allows Congress to have approval of trade bills on a straight up-or-down vote.

The bill made for some odd bedfellows which ended up with a few staunch conservatives on the same side as President Barack Obama. The uniting factor was the importance of trade and the agreement that more accountability and transparency was needed in the trade agreement process.

The final vote count was 219-211. The biggest opponents of the bill included unions and strong Tea Party conservatives (though some broke ranks and supported it including Ted Cruz). Obama lobbied hard for the bill, even making an unscheduled stop at the Annual Congressional Baseball game Thursday evening. The final push seems to have paid off in the final hours: He was able to pull a few undecided democrats like Alabama’s own U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell over to support his position on the bill.

Supporters of the bill have stoutly fought what they considered mischaracterizations of what the bill would or wouldn’t actually do. Conservative economist George Will wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post that ended with a strong message on what passing the bill would do. Will wrote, “Obama has all the friends in Congress he has earned and deserves, so even among Democrats this cohort is vanishingly small. By passing TPA, House Republicans can achieve a fine trifecta, demonstrating their ability to rise above their justifiable resentments, underscoring his dependence on them and on Congress, and illustrating his party’s dependence on factions inimical to economic vitality.”

In a news release after the vote, Executive Vice President Brandon Arnold of the National Taxpayers Union said, “International trade is critical to our economic well being, yet it is nearly impossible to enter into new trade pacts without Trade Promotion Authority. The Senate must now pass TPA on its own and send this critical legislation to the President’s desk.”

Here’s a quick look at how the members of the Alabama Delegation voted and statements from their office.

  • Representative Bradley Byrne (R – 01): Voted for TPA
  • Representative Martha Roby (R – 02): Voted for TPA
  • Representative Mike Rogers (R – 03): Voted for TPA
  • Representative Robert B. Aderholt (R – 04): Voted against TPA
  • Representative Mo Brooks (R – 05): Voted against TPA
  • Representative Gary Palmer (R – 06): Voted against TPA
  • Representative Terri A. Sewell (D – 07): Voted for TPA

Byrne said, “TPA is about boosting the American economy, promoting a strong foreign policy, and restricting an out-of-control president. Every president already has the authority to negotiate trade agreements, but this legislation puts Congress in the driver’s seat and ensures transparency for the American people.”

Roby said, “Trade with other countries is good as long as it’s fair. We want Alabama products to be sold in growing international markets and ensure America builds its economic advantage globally. With China’s economic emergence, that’s as important as ever.

“But, I don’t want President Obama having unilateral trade authority. I want strict checks and balances from Congress, as well as a multilayered mechanism to shut down bad trade deals. That’s why enacting the Trade Promotion Authority is important. TPA empowers Congress to hold this president accountable for presenting the strongest trade agreements possible, and if he doesn’t, we can strike them altogether.”

Rogers said, “Long term, TPA gives Congress oversight and authority in any future deal, and the power to ensure those deals are fair for Alabama’s diverse economy. It will help the United States compete more fairly against China’s ever growing economic influence, and gives Congress final say in whether a trade deal moves forward or not. I disagree with the president often, and this bill keeps President Obama in check.”

Sewell said, “I cast my vote today in support of President Obama and American workers. I believe that this president should be given the same authorities that every other president has been given to negotiate trade agreements that benefit American workers, businesses, and our economy. While I share many of the concerns of my friends in labor regarding trade, I am convinced that President Obama is committed to safeguarding our shared values and protecting American jobs. Ultimately, I believe that President Obama will protect the best interests of the American people, and the folks I represent in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. The bottom line is that President Obama has our back, and we should have his too.”


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