A civil war is raging within the Republican Party, pitting House leaders against conservatives. And “fed up” conservatives have now decided to fight back in public.
The behind-the-scenes battle broke into open view on Friday when Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., was stripped of his chairmanship of a subcommittee for doing just that: voting against a House rule, in an unsuccessful attempt to slow down the rush to give President Obama virtually unchecked power to negotiate massive trade deals.
Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham didn’t mince words in blasting the tactics of House Republican leaders: “This is what the mafia does. I’m sorry, but this is a political mafia on Capitol Hill.”
“They wanted to continue to have a culture of fear of retribution and, yet, the speaker said he had learned his lesson and that he would be open to conservatives. Obviously that is not the case and so here we are today.”
The Ohioan said the trade deal was just symptomatic of a much bigger problem for the GOP: “We aren’t doing what we said we would do.” He noted the trade deal wasn’t even an issue in the 2014 elections that gave Republicans a landslide victory and control of the Senate in addition to the House. The top issues were stopping immigration amnesty and Obamacare.
“Why did they give us the largest majority in the house in 80 years?,” he asked rhetorically, noting it was not for leadership to move “heaven and earth” to give Obama even more unchecked power.
The GOP fratricide flared into the open over opposition among many House conservatives to the Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, bill that would give the president authority to negotiate massive trade deals with other countries, cut Congress out of the negotiations and limit lawmakers’ participation to a simple yes or no vote when such treaties are concluded.
GOP leadership also took revenge last week against three representatives who voted against giving Obama “fast track” trade authority. Reps. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Steve Pearce, N.M., and Trent Franks, Ariz., were kicked off the House Republicans’ “whip team,” responsible for drumming up votes.
The final vote on TPA is Tuesday in the Senate, where it is expected to pass.
Meadows said 95 percent of his colleagues didn’t read the TPA.
“I am one of the few that did,” he said. “When you really look at it, this fast track had 150 suggestions. I say suggestions because they’re not mandates. The president could do anything he wanted to do, and the only person who can hold him accountable would have been Chairman Paul Ryan.”
TPA would allow the House Ways and Means Committee, which Ryan chairs, to vote on proposed changes to “fast-track” trade bills, but not the full Congress.
“It is giving away our constitutional abilities,” charged Meadows.
Ingraham said to Jordan, “I personally have not seen GOP leadership work as hard on something and devote as much time as they’ve devoted to this trade issue, and behind the scenes, lots of arm twisting has been going on by Paul Ryan and Boehner himself.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the intensity for a piece legislation, not something like the funding bill, the omnibus bill … but something that’s just a piece legislation, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the intensity that we saw on display here the last couple weeks with this legislation.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has been leading the charge against TPA, his greatest concern being that it would create an international legal body, akin to the European Union, that would have vast powers to change U.S. law, outside of the control of Congress.
Sessions penned an open letter on Sunday that claimed reams of new information have been exposed since the Senate last voted on TPA more than four weeks ago, including “information that was either not known or understood when the vote was held.”
“The president has refused to answer the most simple but crucial questions about how he plans to use fast-track powers. He will not even answer whether he believes his plan will increase or reduce the trade deficit, increase or reduce manufacturing jobs, or increase or reduce wages.”
“The texts of TTIP and TiSA remain completely secret –unreviewable by lawmakers themselves – yet fast-track would authorize the executive to sign them before Congress votes.”
“The president would send Congress legislation to change U.S. law to comport with these new agreements, legislation which cannot be amended, which senators cannot filibuster, cannot receive a two-thirds treaty vote, and cannot be debated for more than 20 hours.”
“The Ways and Means Committee has also now conceded that, as an unprecedented ‘Living Agreement,’ the union could change its structure, rules, regulations and enforcement mechanisms after final ratification – a dangerous and unjustifiable power.”