The leaders of seven conservative Tea Party organizations on Tuesday (Jan. 13) launched the first volley in their campaign against the congressional passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and held open the possibility of working with Democratic-aligned groups in order to gather enough opposition to defeat any TPA bill.
[Reposted from InsideTrade.com | January 13, 2015]
Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, said during a press conference that his group and the six others would press lawmakers both in Washington and in their home districts to oppose TPA, although he added that they have not approached members yet.
He signaled that this effort would start in earnest at the upcoming South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, which is being held Jan. 17-19 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and will feature prominent conservative activists and politicians.
As part of the start of their campaign, the seven conservative groups -- which also include Eagle Forum, Tea Party Patriots, Obamatrade.com, Center for Security Policy, TheTeaParty.net, and Tea Party Nation -- also released a letter to members of Congress urging them to deny the president TPA because of what they described as his unconstitutional use of executive authority.
"President Obama has seized power time and again, and Congress has effectively thrown up its hands in despair. Denying him Fast Track Authority sends a clear message that enough is enough," the letter said.
But Manning also acknowledged that the conservative groups' ability to influence Congress is limited and said he was open to the idea of joining forces with progressive organizations like labor unions and environmentalists. He added, however, that no such collaboration was under way -- and and stopped short of saying whether the conservative groups had concrete plans to reach out to those on the other end of the political spectrum.
"We have different reasons for coming to the same conclusion. We have the capacity to speak to one part of this Congress in a meaningful way. They have a capacity to speak to another part of this Congress in a meaningful way. And hopefully together, we can create good policy that's not TPA," he said.
Both Manning and Niger Innis, executive director of TheTeaParty.net, commented on how this situation could make liberal and conservative groups strange bedfellows. Manning noted that his organization has sided with environmental groups on certain wind-energy issues.
Earlier this month, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) -- who is leading the House Democratic opposition to TPA -- said she was not having "direct conversations" with House Republicans about opposing TPA, but that she expected a number of them to come out against the legislation as well.
"They have the same issues in their district with regard to jobs that all of us do, and that is that this is not only related to the loss of jobs among Democrats, but Republicans, Independents and others. So I believe that they will join forces," DeLauro said.
Manning and the other conservative leaders present at the press conference declined to estimate how many Republicans in Congress would vote against a TPA bill. Business sources late last week suggested that the number of House Republicans who will oppose TPA because of objections to Obama will not exceed the number who voted against the election of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as speaker, which was 25.
One U.S. official was dismissive of the conservative groups' efforts to campaign against TPA, suggesting that they are in the fringe minority of opinion.
"The fact that Frank Gaffney [founder and president of the Center for Security Policy], an on-the-record Obama birther, played a lead role in today's press conference tells you all you need to know," he said. "It was also telling that it was held in the halls of Congress without a single member of Congress. The truth is that when Tea Party leaders like Ted Cruz are supporting the trade agenda, it leaves isolated fringe groups like this with nothing to do but yell and scream."
In the prior Congress, 23 House Republicans signed a Nov. 12, 2013 letter indicating their opposition to TPA on constitutional grounds. Five of those lawmakers have left office with the inauguration of the new Congress.
"I think there's great unease about TPA. The wages being stagnant, the grant of authority, it runs against the grain of everything Republicans have been complaining about these past four years. There's a pretty big field of Republicans who should be opposing this," Manning said. "What that ends up looking like in terms of a final number, I can't say. As I said, this is the beginning of a process."
The conservative groups during the press conference said while they do not oppose free trade, they do not trust President Obama to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with an agreement that will benefit working class citizens. This is because they believe the president has not only overstepped his constitutional authority with his use of executive action, but that his other foreign policy actions, like negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program, have harmed the country.
Because of this concern, Congress should have the ability to amend any trade agreement, which TPA prevents, the conservative activists continued.
The American Family Association, which was not a signatory to the letter, also indicated its opposition to TPA during the press conference as TPP would reward the governments of Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia, which it said restrict or prohibit the freedom of religious expression.