Path Forward on Bipartisan Trade Bill ‘Still on the Table,’ Says McConnell

‘We want to actually get a good policy outcome. That’s always been our goal. I hope more will now join us to allow debate on the trade discussion our constituents deserve.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today urging Senate Democrats to stop blocking a bipartisan discussion on a 21st century American trade agenda:

“It was quite something to watch President Obama’s party vote to filibuster his top domestic legislative priority yesterday.
“It left pretty much everyone scratching their heads.
“The Democrat Leader made clear yesterday that he was not interested in debating the ‘merits of the bill.’ In other words, he told us that this filibuster is for political reasons only.
“It makes sense, considering that this filibuster is all about appeasing a facts-optional crowd on the Left that hasn’t been able to marshal much of a serious, fact-based argument to support its opposition to more American exports and more American trade jobs.
“You don’t have to take my word for it either.
“It’s President Obama who says the Far Left’s arguments don’t ‘stand the test of fact and scrutiny.’
“It’s President Obama who says the Far Left is just ‘making stuff up.’
“And it’s President Obama who warns the Far Left about ‘ignoring realities.’
“In other words, hardly anyone believes there’s a serious policy leg for these folks to stand on.
“Not that there’s a viable process excuse for this filibuster either.
“A senior Senator in the Democrat leadership essentially rebutted the latest process argument yesterday. He said, quote, “no one disputed in committee that we’d get a vote separately on the customs bill” because it contained a provision, he said, that would bring down TPA. What we can infer from this is that the demand to merge four separate trade bills — including the customs bill — into one trade bill isn’t a strategy designed to pass better trade legislation, but a poison pill designed to kill it.
“So we certainly won’t be doing that.
“Because our goal here should be to score a serious policy win for the American people, not claim a symbolic scalp for the extreme Left.
“That’s why Republicans have chosen to work closely with President Obama to advance a serious trade and economic growth agenda.

“It’s not a natural position for us or the President to be in politically, but we agree that strengthening the Middle Class by knocking down unfair trade restrictions is a good idea. Since we agree on the policy, I think we have a duty to the American people to cooperate responsibly to pursue it.
“And that’s just what we’ve done. Not a single Republican voted yesterday against opening debate on this 21st Century American trade agenda.
“Now all that’s needed to move forward is for our Democratic friends who tell the public they support trade to withdraw support for a filibuster they know is wrong on the merits.
“Yes, I understand it may be uncomfortable for our Democrat colleagues to cross loud factions in their party, but Republicans proved yesterday that it’s possible to put good policy over easy politics.

“Democrats have to choose: Will they allow themselves to keep being led around by the most extreme elements of their party, even when it runs counter to the needs of their constituents, or will they stand and lead?

“The American people are counting on them to make the right choice.

“When they do, they'll find the same willing partners who have always been here. They'll find we’re ready to continue working across the aisle in good faith to move forward.
“Recall that we’ve only gotten as far as we have already because of significant bipartisan compromise on Chairman Hatch’s part. He worked very closely with Senator Wyden to hammer out a trade package that garnered an astonishing 20 votes in the Finance Committee, with just 6 Senators opposed.
“That huge level of bipartisan support really surprised everyone. We’ve seen some unfortunate partisan rear-guard action since then that’s designed to sink these American trade jobs. But we can rise above it. That’s why Republicans remain committed to carrying forward the kind of bipartisan momentum we saw in the Finance Committee, just as we have been all along.
“We’re happy to work with any Senator in a serious way. The door is open.
“I’ve made clear there would be an open amendment process.

“I’ve made clear that Senators would receive fair consideration once we proceed to debating this bill.

“And the bipartisan path forward I offered yesterday morning is still on the table. I remain committed to the significant concession my party made already about processing TPA and TAA. If Chairman Hatch and Senator Wyden can agree to other policies, we can consider those too.
“What we won’t be doing is pursuing poison-pill strategies like the one I mentioned already.

“Let’s also agree that no Senator is in a position to guarantee that some bill can clear both houses of Congress, receive a signature from the President, secure the blessings of the Supreme Court, and whatever else our friends might demand.
“This wouldn’t be much of a democracy if Senators could actually make such an impossible guarantee.
“So look, we want to have serious discussions. We want to actually get a good policy outcome.
“That’s always been our goal. I hope more will now join us to allow debate on the trade discussion our constituents deserve.

Related Issues: Senate Democrats, Trade Promotion Authority, Free Trade