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Shelby, Sessions tried to block Congress from ceding power to Obama on massive trade deal

Sens. Jeff Sessions (Left) and Richard Shelby (Right)
Sens. Jeff Sessions (Left) and Richard Shelby (Right)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions on Thursday joined a handful of their Republican colleagues in attempting to stop Congress from ceding additional power over international trade to the Obama Administration.

The senators voted to filibuster the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which would grant the President the power to “fast-track” trade agreements with less input from Congress. The filibuster was organized in hopes that senators would be able to add amendments to make the TPA more palatable for members who worry the Authority may be detrimental to domestic industries and their employees.

Only five Republicans, Susan Collins (ME), Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY), Jeff Sessions (AL), and Richard Shelby (AL) voted with Democrats to stall the TPA. Their efforts ultimately failed, as 62 senators voted to move forward, in spite of their colleagues’ concerns. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stopped any amendments from being tacked on during the process.

“While I support the principle of free trade, I voted against moving forward on a bill that would provide the President with ‘fast-track’ negotiating authority,” Sen. Shelby told Yellowhammer Thursday shortly after the cloture vote. “President Obama has abused the power of his office many times, and I have serious concerns with his ability to negotiate a trade deal that will be in the best interest of the American people.”

Senator Sessions detailed some of those concerns in a “critical alert” to his colleagues earlier this month.

“Congress has the responsibility to ensure that any international trade agreement entered into by the United States must serve the national interest, not merely the interests of those crafting the proposal in secret,” said Sessions in a document underscoring his top five concerns with the TPA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the new authority would “fast-track.”

“It must improve the quality of life, the earnings, and the per-capita wealth of everyday working Americans,” he continued. “The sustained long-term loss of middle class jobs and incomes should compel all lawmakers to apply added scrutiny to a ‘fast-track’ procedure wherein Congress would yield its legislative powers and allow the White House to implement one of (the) largest global financial agreements in our history—comprising at least 12 nations and nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP.”

Among the concerns from Sessions and other Senators opposed to the TPA is that currency manipulating countries like China will have an unfair advantage over goods made in America.

“Currency protections are currently absent from TPA, indicating again that those involved in pushing these trade deals do not wish to see these currency abuses corrected,” Sessions said. “Therefore, even if currency protections are somehow added into TPA, it is still entirely possible that the Administration could ignore those guidelines and send Congress unamendable trade deals that expose U.S. workers to a surge of underpriced foreign imports.”

A final vote on the TPA is expected to happen this Saturday, holding members from going home early for the Memorial Day holiday.

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