Almost all conservatives agree that free trade is a good idea in principle.
So why are so many conservatives coming out against a bill to make free trade deals easier to implement?
The key plank of fast track is that Congress will take an up-or-down vote on submitted trade deals. If President Barack Obama betrays the specific criteria and procedures in the proposed fast track law, Congress can dismiss the proposed trade agreement without even voting it down. In no case does a trade deal pass without the approval of a majority of the House and the Senate.
On its face, those seem like good terms for Republicans who control both chambers of Congress. But critics of fast track, dubbing it “Obamatrade,” have warned that Obama is scheming to include draconian climate change regulations, amnesty for illegal aliens, and even the repeal of the Second Amendment in the fine print of trade agreements that come up under it.
As the editors of National Review concluded, the hysteria is bizarre and not based in fact.
“Sometimes, politics deals Republicans a winning hand, and that confuses some of them, who then set about trying to figure out a way to lose – which is what is happening over the president's fast-track trade-promotion-authority,” the venerable magazine wrote last month. They are spot on.
It is paranoia to worry that House and Senate Republicans would acquiesce to the outlandish policies the critics are warning about. How many House Republicans would vote against the Second Amendment? Or for climate change regulations? The answer is not one.
The reality is the dynamics on the vote put the GOP in the drivers seat. In recent weeks, unions and environmentalists who oppose free trade have been warning Democrats bluntly they will do everything in their power to end the political careers of any Democrat who votes to increase trade.
Terrified of the repercussions, only a handful of Democrats are in play, meaning that any trade deal would need well beyond a majority of Republicans to pass a given trade deal.
Let us posit the reader has a dim view of John Boehner's (R-Ohio) tenure as Speaker. It's true the Ohio Republican has been rolled by Obama and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on a sizable number of occasions. But whenever that happens there is tremendous public and media pressure for the Republicans to cave. Also, Democrats are united and the GOP is deeply fractured.
This time, the Democrats are deeply fractured. You've got union bosses telling their squishes they'll sleep with the fishes if they step out of line and vote for this trade deal. Liberals are even accusing Obama of sexism for referring to liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) by her first name.
One wrinkle to the argument raised by critics is not necessarily that the terms of fast track are problematic, but that Obama won't abide by them. After all, this is the president that issued an executive amnesty after spending years telling Latino audiences it was unconstitutional. On almost every front, Obama and his administration lackeys are pushing the legal envelope.
All of this is true, but also irrelevant. If Obama won't follow the rules, then the House and Senate will not consider a trade deal. In what sense does it help address that issue to refuse to pass new, additional rules for how the game is played?
Most of what's in the fast track bill is new rules requiring the administration to disclose information about trade deals with Congress and consult lawmakers on what it is negotiating. The only “benefit” to the president is the guarantee of an up-or-down vote – a process the president, by the nature of the way the government is set up, has no authority over. The losers here are big labor's lackeys in Congress who would stall on any deal – if anything giving a Democratic president leverage to shift the deal in a liberal direction.
A final point on how this relates to Obama: The president is a lame duck. Election day is less than 18 months away, thanks be to God. The real issue is whether a Republican president in 2017 can usher in trade deals that he or she negotiates, because it will be much harder to secure fast track once the GOP has taken back the presidency.
For all these reasons, fast track is a no-brainer for conservatives. We all know freer trade is better. It's time to ditch the hysterics and pass a bill to usher it in.
TheBlaze Radio's Mike Opelka spoke with National co-chair of the Coalition for a Strong America Stephani Scruggs about why many conservatives and union leaders oppose Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.
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