Those who follow politics know that where Ted Cruz goes, Mike Lee follows and vice versa. Both are junior Senators who were elected with the support of the Tea Party, and both are thorns in the side of the establishment and President Obama.
Which is why it was so surprising that the two took different paths on one of the most controversial bills of the year. TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) is a six-year plan to give the executive branch the ability to “fast-track” trade deals. The bill was debated for almost two months before it passed through the Senate last month. Only five Republican Senators voted against it, including Jeff Sessions, presidential candidate Rand Paul, and Mike Lee.
However, Ted Cruz split with his long-time ally to vote in favor of “fast-track.” Now Cruz finds himself having to answer for that decision as he seeks the Republican nomination for President. Videos have emerged showing Cruz on the campaign trail explaining his support for TPA.
“I support fast-track,” Cruz said during a question-and-answer session. In another video captured at a campaign event, he explains the difference between TPA (Trade Promotion Authority, or “fast-track”) and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).
TPP is an 800-page trade deal that the current administration has negotiated with several countries, the contents of which have been kept secret from the public. TPA is awaiting action from the House, while TPP has yet to be voted upon. Together, they have been dubbed “Obamatrade.”
Cruz supports both.
He argues that Obama will soon be out of office, and it will be important for the next President—“I hope it will be me,” he says—to be able to make trade deals without interference from Congress.
Cruz’s support for TPA has not been tepid. In fact he co-authored an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal with Rep. Paul Ryan in support of “fast-track.” A recent poll indicates that most Americans oppose Obamatrade.
Conservative commentator Steve Deace noted on Twitter that it’s the first time Cruz finds himself at odds with grassroots conservatives, and that puts the Texas Senator in an awkward and unfamiliar position. Meanwhile, Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government, was less diplomatic, excoriating Cruz for “joining the establishment.”
The pro-Cruz website Conservative Review, while not calling out Cruz directly, did make a strong case against Obamatrade ahead of the TPA vote. CR fell silent on the issue after Cruz voted in favor of it. Michael Farris–renowned constitutional attorney, co-founder of Convention of States Project, and Chancellor of Patrick Henry College–recently penned an essay on Facebook entitled, “Ted Cruz places big business ahead of the Constitution.”
If the text of TPA itself wasn’t bad enough, the details of how it was passed will certainly give you the heebie jeebies. Many Senators voted for TPA based on promises related to the crony Ex-Im Bank, which is up for reauthorization this year. As Frank Underwood would say, “Give and take. Welcome to Washington.”
Meanwhile, Senators Jeff Sessions and Rand Paul voted against TPA and have been vocal in their opposition to TPP. Paul opposed TPA on the grounds that it would transfer congressional power to the executive branch and recently called for the administration to make TPP available to the public.
Some scant details about TPP emerged last week, none of them good. In a recent interview President Obama let slip that there may be climate regulations in the deal, and others have raised privacy concerns based on documents that were leaked. Wikileaks says the deal undermines national laws.
In addition to Rand Paul, several presidential candidates have expressed their opposition to Obamatrade, including Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee. On the other hand, Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham voted in favor of TPA and have signaled their support for TPP, as have Scott Walker and Jeb Bush.
As more details emerge about Obamatrade, it will be interesting to see if Cruz stands by his support for the secret deal, or if he will listen to the grassroots conservatives he will need in order to win the Republican nomination for President.