- - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It must be said, free trade agreements are not the avenue for the president to complete his objective to “fundamentally transform America.”

For the first time, President Obama is actually asking Congress for expanded power. After consistently circumventing the legislative branch to write his own environmental, health care and immigration laws, he now wants trade promotion authority known as “fast track” legislation. If passed, this type of legislation would allow the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be accelerated through the House and Senate on unamendable, up-or-down, simple majority votes. This entire situation reminds me of the importance of President Reagan’s adage, “Trust, but verify.”

The TPP deal has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning. Most of what we know about the deal has come from leaks by other countries. Those leaks do not offer much comfort. They indicate immigration changes for visas despite consistent directives from Congress and the Constitution that trade deals are not the place for immigration policy. They also indicate that TPP will include environmental and labor law provisions that are designed to implement disastrous Obama policies that Congress has already rejected.

All of this is troubling news because I have a long history as a strong advocate of free, but smart, trade. The United States is third in the world in exports behind China and the European Union. We need agreements that help push us to the top of the list. From the founding of our nation, our leaders have understood the value of trade. When the United States competes in the global marketplace, we win. We have the best workers, resources and rule of law system in the world. America has always risen to the challenge of the open marketplace.

However, my support of free trade does not extend to supporting any deal with a “free trade” label stamped on it. Trade deals should be about trade, not avenues to change American domestic, let alone foreign, policy.

Also, there is the issue of the president’s lawlessness. Congress should remember that granting the president broad power to command trade policy should come with checks and balances. The president has unconstitutionally usurped Congress‘ Article I legislative power to regulate immigration. As a condition for Congress to grant Mr. Obama trade promotion authority, we should require from him the concession to return immigration policy to the constitutionally mandated branch of government. For that reason, I will offer an amendment to fast track legislation to defund and void all of the president’s executive actions that violate or ignore immigration law.

As trade discussion progresses, Republicans should ask themselves if they trust this president with the power they wish to place in him. After all of the executive actions that clearly defy Congress, is he trustworthy? Trust must always be earned. The president should be willing to defund of all of his illegal and unconstitutional actions on immigration as a sign of good faith. One grant of expansive power should come with a rightful and constitutional reduction of his past power grab.

Finally, Mr. Obama should come forth and honor his transparency promise after he was first elected. As Congress considers fast track, he should shed light on what type of deals he is making. If those worried about the Trans-Pacific Partnership rewriting domestic law in expansive ways are conspiracy theorists, then the president can easily disprove that by showing the American people concrete details from the deal. And he can demonstrate a willingness to act within his own constitutional boundaries by agreeing to defund his illegal and unconstitutional actions on immigration. Both transparency and humility are required steps for this president as Congress considers fast track.

Steve King is a Republican member of the U.S. House or Representatives from Iowa.

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