For a port city like Mobile, it’s all about trade, which is why Alabama legislators on both sides of the debate were deeply invested in two highly controversial trade bills.
The first, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), would offer assistance–including job training and healthcare– to workers who lose their jobs due to free trade deals.
The second, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), gives the president the power to negotiate international trade deals that can’t be amended or filibustered by congress. Legislators would simply be able to vote “yes” or “no.”
President Obama spent the last several days actively lobbying for the bills because they would pave the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade deal between 12 countries. The wording of the TPP is so secretive, lawmakers have to go to a locked room to read it and must hand over any notes they write inside.
“We ought to know everything there is about it. Lawyers ought to explain every word that’s in it. We need to know precisely what it is that’s occurring. I don’t believe frankly that it should be given to this president who’s already shown that he’s not bound by law when it comes to promoting his agenda,” said Senator Jeff Sessions said about the Trans-Pacific Partnership when he appeared on the Laura Ingraham show.
Sessions spearheaded conservative opposition efforts, but the bill passed last month in the Senate 67-32.
Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby voted “no,” making Alabama the only Republican state to have both its senators in opposition.
In the house, the opinions of Alabama representatives were split.Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) Mo Brooks (R-Hunstville), Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) voted against the bill while Bradley Byrne (R- Fairhope), Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), Mike Rogers (R-Saks), Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) supported it.
Roby said, “some of the rumors out there have been pretty alarming, so I went and spent extra time studying the bill for myself. Despite some of the widespread misinformation out there, I’m confident TPA puts us in a better position to approve good trade deals and stop bad ones, all in a transparent way.”
Bradley Byrne agreed.”Trade is critically important to our local economy in Southwest Alabama. Over 558,000 jobs in Alabama alone are supported by trade, and the Port of Mobile is among the top United States ports serving manufacturing, mining, and agribusiness exports. With TPA in place, the United States can finalize free trade agreements that support American workers and bring jobs to Southwest Alabama.”
Even though the TPA bill passed, Obama’s trade agenda is in limbo until the House votes on the TAA again next week after striking it down on Friday. Both bills must pass in order for the topic to head to the White House.