Hatch on Finance Committee Consideration of Trade Agreements
Utah Senator Says, “We tried everything in our power to work with the majority to find a resolution - to give Senators enough time to consider these three agreements and the 97 amendments that had been filed”
WASHINGTON – At a news conference today, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Republican members of the Committee outlined why they were seeking alternative times for consideration of the trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea after the White House inserted an unrelated spending measure, and Senate Democrats abused long-adhered trade and committee rules in the process. The majority refused to accommodate committee Republicans repeated requests to hold the mark up with enough time to fully understand the agreements and review the 97 amendments that both Democrats and Republicans filed to the three agreements.
“We tried everything in our power to work with the majority to find a resolution – to give Senators enough time to consider these three agreements and the 97 amendments that had been filed. We want these agreements to pass. We want the Committee to send them to the full Senate for consideration,” said Hatch. “Unfortunately, the majority refused to accommodate our concerns. They refused to give the American people time to understand these agreements. They refused to move the mark up to 10:00 this morning. They refused to move it to 10:00 am next Tuesday. Why isn’t this reasonable to give the Senators on the Committee the time to consider these agreements? What is the White House afraid of?”
Last night, in an effort to ensure carefully consideration of pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, there was an agreement between Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for the Senate Finance Committee to meet at 10:00 AM on Thursday, June 30th and proceed with the “mock” markup of the three trade agreements, one of which included an extension of vastly expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The agreement would have allowed both Democrat and Republican members of the Committee to have ample time to examine and amend the implementing legislation.
However, Senate Democrats refused to hold it at 10:00 a.m., and even refused to allow the Committee to convene next Tuesday. Instead they moved forward with the late-day markup over the objections of Republican Members of the Committee.
Instead of allowing the White House to jam a domestic spending bill by abusing trade rules at a late-day markup, Senate Finance Committee Republicans exercised their minority rights and opted to delay for adequate time to fully examine the trade pacts, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance proposal recently made public.
When the Chairman opened today’s Committee meeting, Democratic members in attendance made much of the refusal of Republicans to attend the late afternoon end of work period meeting. The minority rarely, if ever, invokes this power. The reason is this right of the minority guarantees consultation occurs and the consultation results in a meeting time that considers the ability of all members to attend and properly conduct the business the Chairman brings before the committee. Unfortunately, the consultation yielded a truncated process which did not afford all members proper time to debate the important issues on the agenda. The offer from Finance Committee Republicans to meet at the next business day remains in effect.
Hatch delivered the following remarks at today’s press conference:
As we stand here, the Finance Committee is set to begin a mock markup of the three pending free trade agreements — Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. This markup will not be happening. I along with the other Republican members will not be attending the markup, thereby denying the necessary quorum to conduct committee business.
I want to be clear. We do not take this action lightly. We have a great deal of respect for this institution, and for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. However, the process leading to this markup, not to mention the substance, has been so noxious that we cannot in good faith attend this markup and pretend as though everything is fine and dandy.
The fact is we tried everything in our power to work with the majority to find a resolution – to give Senators enough time to consider these three agreements and the 97 amendments that had been filed. They refused to move the mark up to 10:00 this morning. They refused to move it to 10:00 am next Tuesday. Why isn’t this reasonable to give the Senators on the Committee the time to consider these agreements? What is the White House afraid of?
These trade agreements were signed four and five years ago. The President urged Congress to pass the Korea agreement during his State of the Union address. All three have been ready to go for months. And yet this week, right before the Fourth of July weekend, this markup is announced. These are serious agreements. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of hours, have been spent getting them ready for Congress to consider them, and then there is a rush-job to jam them through the Committee?
The reason for this scheduling is simple. The Administration, to appease its political allies, is desperate to attach an extension of the stimulus level TAA to the Korea agreement. These trade agreements would bring billions of dollars in economic growth to our country overnight. They would create thousands of new jobs. And they are holding them up over TAA? They are prepared to throw years worth of work on free trade agreements in the garbage. This is beyond irresponsible.
If the President and his Democratic allies want to pass TAA, go ahead and pass TAA. Have at it. Let it stand on its own accord. But don’t attach it to these agreements. We gave the administration fair warning on this. We made it clear time and time and time again that we would not stomach attaching a big government spending program onto these agreements. The President knew where we stood and he decided to ignore those who don’t agree with him. Well, if he wants to play hardball, we are ready to play hardball. It is unfortunate that we have come to this, but the President chose to go down this path and he is going to have to live with his choice.
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