Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
After a Week of Floor Debate, Hatch Calls for Cloture on Bipartisan TPA
In speech on Senate floor, Utah senator says, “I said at the beginning of this debate that this was, quite possibly, the most important debate we’ll have in Congress this year. It is President Obama’s top legislative priority. It is a very high priority for many of us in Congress. And, on the substance, this is a good TPA bill, one that Senators from both parties can support. It needs to pass.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on the Senate to invoke cloture on the Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA 2015) after a week of procedural delays.
“We need to pass TPA to demonstrate to the American people that, despite our many disagreements, their elected representatives are capable of addressing important issues and solving real problems,” Hatch said. “There is a path forward here; one that will still allow us to be successful. But, in order to get there, we need Senators to vote to support cloture this morning.”
Hatch went on to pledge his support for finding a path forward, including working with his Senate colleagues on amendments.
“Invoking cloture is not the end. If we can get agreement with our colleagues, I expect there will still be opportunities to call up and vote on amendments. But, we can’t just sit around and wait for solutions to come together on their own,” Hatch continued. “If any Senator has a proposal for a path forward that will reasonably satisfies the various demands and objections that have been raised and allows us to break the logjam on amendments, I’m all ears.”
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, the Senate will shortly vote on cloture on the Hatch substitute amendment, legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance.
I know that some of my colleagues have concerns about the process. Let me say at the outset I share those concerns.
From the very beginning of our discussions over three years ago on the renewal of TPA, I have done all I could to listen to my colleagues and address their concerns.
I first worked with then Chairman Baucus to find a way to update TPA in a way that address many of the issues that had arisen since 2002, including concerns over labor and the environment.
When Senator Wyden became Chairman of the Finance Committee, I again went to the negotiating table to try to address many of the transparency and procedural issues he raised and we again came to a bipartisan compromise.
When many of my Senate colleagues said renewal of TAA was a necessary component to passing TPA, I again did my best to meet those concerns, even though I myself have significant reservations about the program.
And, throughout the Finance Committee consideration I tried to conduct an open and fair process which allowed many members of the committee, even those who oppose TPA, the opportunity to be heard and to have their amendments adopted.
As a result the committee reported out four major pieces of trade legislation, all with strong bipartisan support.
I’ll acknowledge that the process on the floor has not gone the way that any of us would have liked.
At the outset of this endeavor, I stated my commitment to a full, fair, and open debate over our TPA legislation. The Majority Leader made a similar commitment and I know that was our intention. Indeed, from the very beginning, we had planned to hear everyone’s arguments and consider a number of amendments.
This is how the Senate is supposed to function, Mr. President. And, once again, we intended to let it function that way.
Unfortunately, there were some who didn’t want to let that happen. They were, from the very beginning, committed to slow-walking this process and preventing regular order.
That’s just a fact, Mr. President.
I know that there are some who want to blame the Majority Leader for filing cloture and trying to move this process forward. And, I’m sure that some are thinking of voting against cloture this morning in protest.
That would be a grave mistake, Mr. President.
Let me remind my colleagues that we tried to move to the bill at the beginning of last week. I know, after the many recent long days here on the floor, that seems like a long time ago. But, I think everyone here can recall what happened.
We attempted to get on the bill and were prevented from doing so.
After we found a way to address our colleagues’ concerns, we were finally able to begin debate on the TPA bill. But, even then, the process was slow-going.
As debate began, the Majority Leader attempted to keep the Senate open on Friday and into the weekend to allow Senators to debate and offer amendments. However, the Senate Minority Leader objected, which prevented the process from moving forward and set us back even further.
Then we came to this week and debate finally began in earnest. Shortly thereafter, a new strategy emerged, wholly supported by the opponents of TPA. The strategy has been simple: prevent any amendments from being called up and object to any and all unanimous consent requests.
I’ve been here on the floor all week, Mr. President. I’ve witnessed firsthand the deployment of this plan to frustrate the process and to prevent a full and fair debate on trade policy.
And, now, here we are, facing a cloture vote and the prospect of cutting off debate. It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, but, given the total lack of cooperation we faced – and continue to face – on this bill, this is really the only option left.
Invoking cloture is not the end. If we can get agreement with our colleagues, I expect there will still be opportunities to call up and vote on amendments. But, we can’t just sit around and wait for solutions to come together on their own. If any Senator has a proposal for a path forward that will reasonably satisfies the various demands and objections that have been raised and allows us to break the logjam on amendments, I’m all ears.
Until then, our only choice is to press forward.
We could extend this debate forever, Mr. President, and still not satisfy every demand. But, this bill is too important.
I have done all I can to address legitimate concerns. As a result, the bill is supported by myself, Chairman Ryan of the House Ways and Means Committee, Ranking Member Wyden of the Finance Committee, and the President of the United States.
Let’s be real here. We need to get this bill passed. Just this morning I read that a Ministerial that was to begin this month has been cancelled, in large part due to the fact that the Congress has not approved this bill.
Our nation’s economic health and prestige are on the line here today.
This TPA bill is the only way Congress can effectively assert its priorities in our ongoing trade negotiations.
It’s the only way can ensure that our trade negotiators can reach good deals with our trading partners.
And, it’s the only we can ensure that our pending trade agreements even have a shot at reaching the finish line.
As I’ve stated many times here on the floor this week, I’m well aware that some of our colleagues here in the Senate oppose this bill outright and will do everything in their power to keep it from passing. And, as much as I’ve tried to change hearts and minds on these issues, there’s very little I can do about that.
But, I also know that there is a bipartisan majority of Senators who support TPA, and who, despite concerns about process, want to get this done. We’re still in a position to reach a positive outcome on this bill.
I said at the beginning of this debate that this was, quite possibly, the most important debate we’ll have in Congress this year. It is President Obama’s top legislative priority. It is a very high priority for many of us in Congress.
And, on the substance, this is a good TPA bill, one that Senators from both parties can support. It needs to pass, Mr. President.
We need to pass it for American workers who want good, high-paying jobs.
We need to pass it for our farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs who need access to foreign markets in order to compete.
We need to pass it to maintain our standing in the world and continue to advance American values and interests on the world stage.
And, we need to pass it to demonstrate to the American people that, despite our many disagreements, their elected representatives are capable of addressing important issues and solving real problems.
There is a path forward here; one that will still allow us to be successful. But, in order to get there, we need Senators to vote to support cloture this morning.
I urge my colleagues to join me in voting yes on cloture.
Next Article Previous Article