Conservative Leaders Cite TPP As One Reason GOP Should Skip Lame Duck

April 20, 2016


A group of 93 conservative activists and leaders is calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to refrain from scheduling a lame-duck session of Congress after the election, partially because it could lead to the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership pushed by President Obama.

[Daily News| April 18, 2016 |Inside US Trade]

In an April 14 letter to Ryan and McConnell, they argued against a lame-duck session on the grounds that it would provide Obama a last chance to enact his policies they oppose; be undemocratic because outgoing lawmakers would no longer be accountable to voters; and that previous lame ducks have been used to enact backroom deals that do not reflect the will of the electorate.

With regard to Obama's agenda, the letter included an implicit but clear reference to TPP by warning about “his international agreements” that he wants Congress to approve.

“A lame duck session would be [Obama's] swan song,” it said. “He can be expected to leave no arm untwisted, no threat unmade, no quid un-quod, to get his dream-policies enacted, his liberal judges confirmed, and his international agreements approved. And all of it could be done without any concern for what the voters actually want because neither he nor the departing legislators will ever face the voters again. We think that’s a bad way to run a democracy.”

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning specifically cited TPP as a reason to oppose the lame duck in an op-ed published on April 15 on the group's blog, Netrightdaily.com. Manning, whose group has long opposed the TPP in part because it believes it would undermine U.S. sovereignty, also signed the April 14 letter.

He argued that that the “only possible reason” for bringing up the TPP in the lame duck is to allow some lawmakers who claimed opposition to the deal during their re-election campaign to support it after the votes are cast.

“With all four of the possible Presidential nominees opposed to the disastrous Obama deal, powerful lobbying groups fear that if they don’t get it done in a lame duck, it may be years before they get another bite at the apple,” he said.

Among the other conservative leaders who signed the letter were Phyllis Schafly, chairman and CEO of the Eagle Forum and a long-time opponent of free trade deals; Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express; Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots; and Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action America.

The effort was coordinated by the Conservative Action Project, a group chaired by Becky Norton Dunlop, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan. It was founded by Edwin Meese, who was attorney general under Reagan.

The letter also made several other veiled references to TPP. One was under the argument that past lame-duck sessions have been used to push through unpopular policies, saying this included the “ratification of treaties that threaten U.S. sovereignty.” ALG has long referred to the TPP as a treaty, even though it is not one.

One key trade deal that was passed during a lame-duck session was the Uruguay Round trade agreement in 1994, although that was not a presidential election year.

“Past lame duck sessions have produced, among other actions, massive tax and spending increases, increases in the gasoline tax, pay raises for members of Congress, and ratifications of treaties that threaten U.S. sovereignty,” the letter said.

The letter also implicitly mentioned TPP after highlighting McConnell's comments that the American people, not a lame-duck president, should be allowed to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia in February.

“We respectfully suggest that the American people deserve that same opportunity with regard to confirming other federal judges, as well as to passing legislation and making international agreements,” the letter said.

At the same time, it stressed that Congress needs to hold pro-forma sessions after the election to prevent the president from making a recess appointment to the Supreme Court.

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