In case you missed it, this week I joined a bipartisan majority in the House to advance Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to assert Congress’ role in and bring transparency and accountability to international trade negotiations.
As I previously mentioned, I voted for this legislation for two very important reasons. First, TPA delivers the strongest possible trade agreements. With two of the busiest and fastest growing ports in the nation, international trade is a critical factor in the economic prosperity of the First District and all of Georgia. Unfortunately, America is falling behind.
Since 2007, there have been more than 100 trade agreements signed around the world and we were party to none and we can’t afford to let that continue. In order to create more opportunity and more jobs all across America, we need to open more markets to American-made products that will be exported through our ports like Savannah and Brunswick.
TPA will expedite these much-needed agreements while giving the American people a voice in ensuring any deal benefits the American people.
Second, like many, I don’t trust the president. Right now, trade agreements are being negotiated behind closed doors with no transparency and it cannot stand. I voted for TPA to hold President Obama accountable and ensure any trade agreement is available for everyone to review.
False information continues to be circulated about TPA, and it is my goal to provide the facts to explain my vote, answer any questions or concerns you may have and ensure you know how important TPA is to our local community, state and nation.
Myth vs. fact: Setting the record straight on Trade Promotion Authority
Myth: Trade agreements destroy U.S. jobs
Fact: Expanding markets for American exports will fuel stronger economic growth and create jobs
There is widespread consensus that expanding trade is good for the economy and good for jobs — from editorials to farmers and ranchers to local business groups to the textile and agriculture industries — and there is no shortage of data to back that up.
Trade supports one in five American jobs, a total of 38 million jobs nationwide. Last year, “the U.jS. also enjoyed a trade surplus in manufactured goods with our FTA partners totaling $55 billion,” according to the International Trade Administration.
The TPA bill will expedite progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which will help level the playing field for American goods and services with “some of the U.S.’ biggest and fastest-growing commercial partners, accounting for $1.5 trillion worth of trade in goods in 2012,” and “40 percent of the world’s GDP and 26 percent of the world’s trade,” the Washington Post reports.
Myth: TPA vastly expands the president’s executive authority at the expense of Congress
Fact: The TPA bill enhances Congress’ ability to outline Its priorities and increases its participation in the negotiating process
“Trade Promotion Authority has been maligned as a congressional capitulation or executive power grab. It is neither,” says the Cato Institute’s Daniel J. Ikenson. Indeed, the TPA bill actually strengthens Congress’ role in the negotiating process by allowing Congress the opportunity to outline its priorities — such as “protections for intellectual property rights, rules for agricultural trade, labor standards, and measures to combat currency manipulation” — and requires the administration to adhere to those negotiating objectives.
If it fails to do so, the bill includes a new provision that allows either the House or the Senate to “turn off” TPA, removing expedited procedures for the implementing bill in either chamber. The measure also enhances consultation between Congress and the administration, creating House and Senate Advisory Groups on Negotiations to confer with the administration on all aspects of trade negotiations and give Congress a stronger voice in the process.
Myth: TPA gives the president the ability to negotiate secret, backroom trade deals
Fact: The TPA bill increases transparency and ensures public access to information prior to a vote in Congress
The bipartisan TPA trade bill “provides for unprecedented congressional oversight of the negotiating process,” says the Washington Examiner. It does so by allowing members of Congress to review the negotiating text, attend negotiating sessions, and receive briefings from the administration upon request. The measure also ensures the American people have the opportunity to review the agreement, and fully understand its economic impact through public reporting requirements, before it comes to a vote in Congress.
In addition, the bill creates “a Transparency Officer at USTR (U.S. Trade Representative) that will consult with Congress and advise the USTR on transparency policies,” the Ways and Means Committee notes.
Myth: TPA opens the door for “unrestricted immigration”
Fact: TPA has nothing to do with immigration and explicitly prevents any changes to U.S law without Congress’ approval
As the House Ways andMeans Committee makes explicitly clear: “TPP has nothing to do with the President’s recent action on immigration — period.” There is no provision in the pending free trade agreement expanding or changing immigration laws or authorities, much less opening the door for the president to advance his immigration agenda.
Additionally, “under fast track, the president does not exercise any new authority that he lacked before,” law professor John Yoo writes in National Review. The TPA bill specifically bars the president from enacting any changes to U.S. law, and retains Congress’ ability to vote down any trade agreement that does not satisfy the administration’s obligations under TPA.
From our nation’s Capitol
Monday, June 8: After a weekend staff retreat that included both our Washington and district staffs, I’m back at the Capitol today. Although we have been together for most of the weekend, my day begins with our weekly staff meeting where we review last week’s events and discuss what will be coming up this week. Interestingly, this week will be more focused on legislation that we will be voting on as we have two appropriation bills and possibly a bill to establish Trade Promotion Authority that we will have on the floor. Any one of these alone would make for a significant week and all three in the same week is indeed a bit unusual.
I am happy to welcome to Washington this week the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists and am delighted to be their keynote speaker. As the only pharmacist currently serving in Congress, I am honored to address the different groups as they visit and try to stress to them the importance of spreading our message to other members of Congress.
Later, I have the opportunity to meet with Members of the Georgia Cable Industry including representatives from Comcast, Charter and Cox, as we discuss Net Neutrality, target reforms, internet tax moratorium and security issues.
Tuesday, June 9: As the first day of session of the week, this is a busy day full of meetings. First, I meet with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as we discuss the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, Older Americans Act and Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act.
Next, I meet with Wayne McMillan who works with the Bobby Dodd Institute, an organization that administers the Ability One program. This program provides job opportunities for people with disabilities and operates a mail service project at Moody Air Force Base in our district.
After meeting with the Georgia Propane Gas Association to discuss tax incentives for fuel and other topics, I head to our weekly whip meeting where we discuss the upcoming week and hear from Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) concerning the upcoming votes on trade. With potentially three major pieces of legislation on the floor this week, members of the whip team will be very busy with our job of counting votes and trying to determine whether we have a sufficient number of votes to pass these bills.
Next, I head to the house chamber for our first series of votes where we pass H.R. 2289, the Commodity End User Relief Act, which authorizes the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to continue working through 2019. After this 15-minute vote, we vote on ten amendments to H.R. 2577, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill. We are given two minutes to vote on each amendment and it is important to be prepared for the votes and to pay close attention so as not to miss any.
Following this vote series, I head to a meeting with my fellow Georgia colleagues before returning to the chamber at 10:45 p.m. for our second voting series of the night where we vote on nine more amendments to the THUD bill before passing the bill and walking off the floor just before midnight.
Wednesday, June 10: My day starts with an early morning meeting with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, to discuss the activity and goals of this important committee, followed by our weekly Republican Conference meeting. Next, I head to the house chamber to deliver a one-minute speech during morning order. Members are given the opportunity to speak for one minute on any subject they choose and this morning I am congratulating my nephew, Canon Hutcheson, and his wife, Courtney, on the birth of their daughter, Ella Brooke Hutcheson, yesterday in Warner Robins.
After arriving back to my office, I meet with the Childhood Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE) group for an introductory meeting and to talk about the organization. After meeting with Jusak Yang Bernhard and Jeff Manley, who own TailsSpin, Inc., in Savannah and are visiting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I head to the weekly Republican Study Committee meeting before a meeting with the Georgia Transportation Alliance to discuss the future of the Highway Trust Fund. Next, I head back to the House chamber for our first series of votes of the day where we pass H.R. 2393, the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015, as well as vote on amendments to H.R. 2685, the FY16 Department of Defense Appropriations bill.
Afterwards, I head to an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing before attending a cake cutting ceremony and reception celebrating the 240th Birthday of the U.S. Army. Next, I participate in a meeting of the majority leader’s 21st Century Government Project, an agency reform working group that I have been appointed to, before heading to a meeting of the freshman class with Speaker John Boehner. Later, from 8:30-10 p.m., I preside over the house during special orders before stepping down and voting on ten amendments to the DoD Appropriations bill. For the second night in a row, we walk off the floor just before midnight.
Thursday, June 11: ’m on the radio first thing this morning as I do an interview with Scott James of Talk 92.1 in Valdosta before heading to a Committee on Homeland Security member-only briefing on the FBI’s Counterterrorism Internet Operations Section. These classified meetings are held in soundproof rooms with no electronic equipment permitted and are necessary to keep committee members apprised of the many terrorism issues threatening our country. Afterwards, I head to the House chamber, where I make another one-minute speech, this time on the DoD budget and its positive impact on the 1st District with our four military installations.
Later, I head to a subcommittee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the Export-Import Bank before heading to the House chamber for our first and only series of votes today as we vote on ten amendments to the DoD Appropriations bill before passing the final bill. In one of the closest and most intense votes of the session, we also adopt the rule providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to H.R. 1314, the TPA bill. This vote was necessary in order to bring TPA up for a vote tomorrow.
Finally, my staff and I attend the annual Congressional baseball game where the Democrats continue their recent dominance over the Republicans by winning 5-2. Interestingly, President Obama makes an appearance at the game, an indication of how important the next 18 hours will be to the President’s efforts to secure enough Democrat votes to get TPA passed.
Friday, June 12: For the second morning in a row, I’m on the radio again, this time with Scott Ryfun of WGIG in Brunswick. Both of these Scotts have popular shows with dedicated listeners who are politically astute and it is always a treat for me to participate. The buzz in the gym this morning and on the morning TV shows is that the president will be coming to Capitol Hill to meet with the Democrats to try to garner votes for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and TPA votes today. Trade Adjustment Assistance provides income support and training to workers displaced by international trade.
You can feel the tension in the air as these momentous votes are about to take place. Although I have served for a decade in the Georgia legislature, rarely have I been involved in such a historic vote process as today. As a member of the whip team, I am intricately involved in this process and kept up to date with the ever-changing dynamics. We have our first whip meeting at 10 a.m. where we discuss strategy and review our game plan going forward.
The House is in recess for the next one and a half hours while the President meets with the Democrats, and I return to my office before being called back for another whip meeting at 11:30 AM where we learn that our game plan has now changed before heading to the floor at noon to finally vote on these trade bills that have been discussed and hotly debated over the past few months. While some may say we are exaggerating the importance of these votes and this moment, many of us feel this is a very historic time in our nation’s history.
In the end, while the Democrats cannot garner the votes to pass TAA, TPA does pass and the Republican leadership and the whip team are extremely happy. After the handshakes and backslapping are finished, I preside over special orders for the final one and a half hours before gaveling the house into adjournment and heading to the airport to get back to God’s country in the 1st Congressional District.