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Alabama delegation could decide whether ‘ObamaTrade’ passes or not, here’s why

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) prepares for a television interview in the Russell Senate Office Building (Photo: Facebook)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) prepares for a television interview in the Russell Senate Office Building (Photo: Facebook)

All eyes will be on the Alabama Congressional delegation Friday as the U.S. House votes on whether or not to grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast track authority” to enter into international trade agreements that Congress will not be able to amend.

Conservatives like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have warned that passing TPA would cede too much power to the executive branch, increase America’s trade deficit and threaten jobs. But the bill has garnered the support of big business groups and Republican congressional leadership, who plan to pass the bill on Friday, paving the way for the Obama administration to enact numerous international trade deals that have been negotiated behind closed doors.

So secretive has the process been on one such deal — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — that members of Congress are only allowed to read it in a locked room in the U.S. Capitol, but are not even allowed to take any of it with them to review with their staffs.

According to Sen. Sessions’ analysis, giving President Obama “fast track authority” would allow any future trade agreements, including the TPP, to be considered “living agreements,” which could be updated and changed without congressional oversight.

“Promoters of TPA should explain why the American people ought to trust the Administration and its foreign partners to revise or rewrite international agreements, or add new members to those agreements, without congressional approval,” said Sessions. “Does this not represent an abdication of congressional authority?”

An unusual coalition of Congress’s most liberal and most conservative members appear to agree on concerns that the deal could hurt American workers, but that opposition may be more than offset by the support the deal has garnered from major business interests.

As a result, the final vote on TPA on Friday could, according to Sen. Sessions, come down to a “razor-thin” margin, and Alabama’s delegation could swing the vote one way or the other.

As of Thursday evening, Alabama congressmen Mo Brooks (R-AL5) and Gary Palmer (R-AL6) have very publicly opposed TPA and Congressmen Robert Aderholt (R-AL4) and Terri Sewell (D-AL7) are believed to be leaning “no” as well. But it is unclear right now where Congressmen Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), Martha Roby (R-AL2) and Mike Rogers (R-AL3) will land, especially with Congressional leadership urging their members to support the bill.

A unanimous Alabama delegation would not only be significant in terms of their own seven votes, but could also swing other southern delegations off of the fence and firmly into the “no” camp.

In August of last year, Alabama’s delegation almost singlehandedly orchestrated a conservative victory on immigration, they may have another shot Friday on “ObamaTrade.”

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