By Elizabeth Beshears
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) circulated a "critical alert" earlier this week warning his colleagues that a recent bill giving President Obama special authority to negotiate a massive trade deal would ceed too much power to the executive branch and threaten the US economy. Under the agreement, Congress would not be able to amend what President Obama has called "the most progressive trade deal in history."
Congress's most liberal and most conservative members appear to be coalescing around concerns that the deal could hurt American workers, but it has garnered the support of big business groups and Republican congressional leadership.
Yellowhammer contacted the other members of the Alabama congressional delegation to ask where they stood on the subject. See if you can spot a pattern.
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL): "I have long been a supporter of fair and free trade. However, I have witnessed President Obama abuse the power of his office time and time again. He circumvented Congress to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, waged a war on coal through his EPA, and is now pursuing a bad deal with Iran without input from Congress. Considering the repeated misuse of power, should we trust this President to negotiate a trade deal that will be in the best interest of the American people? My fear is that we can't, which is why I have serious concerns with granting this President "fast-track' authority."
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) from a spokesman: "Congressman Byrne is a strong supporter of free trade, which supports almost 3,000 jobs in the First District alone. That said, he believes Congress must have a seat at the table as the trade negotiations continue. Congressman Byrne is continuing to study the Trade Promotion Authority agreement before Congress and would be inclined to support legislation that restricts the President's negotiating authority in any trade agreement. Most importantly, Congressman Byrne insists that Congress have the final say in approving any trade deal."
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL5): "At this point I am skeptical about these trade agreements given the impact on jobs here in Alabama from previous negotiations. It seems that every time a new agreement comes around Alabama ends up paying the price in terms of jobs. That being said, we will be carefully looking at this agreement to see if that would indeed be the situation.
"That skepticism is not allayed based upon this Administration which is negotiating the agreement. All we have to do is look at the results of the Bergdahl prisoner trade and other negotiations."
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6): "I am going to look at it. Right now, I am not inclined to give the President any more authority because of his abuse of executive power. I am as pro free trade as anybody but this is a different environment."
Those who responded to Yellowhammer's request were all on essentially the same page: yes to free trade, no to giving the president more power to circumvent Congress.