Boehner, campaign finance, Darrell Issa, fast track, Im-Politic, Immigration, Iran, Jeb Bush, Obama, Paul Ryan, TPA, Trade, Trade Promotion Authority, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP
That’s some stunningly contradictory message leading Republicans have been sending lately regarding President Obama’s negotiating skills. On the one hand, they portray him as a bumbling naif on issues like normalizing ties with Cuba and eliminating the Iran nuclear weapons threat. And on the other hand, they’re happy to grant him sweeping Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to negotiate history’s biggest trade agreements.
This incoherence was most recently displayed by likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that the Obama Cuba diplomacy that began to reestablish diplomatic and economic relations amounted to “bad negotiations.”
According to Bush, “[W]e got nothing in return. We traded a guy who was held hostage, Alan Gross, an aid worker for no reason. He was allowed in the country, he was held hostage and he was languishing in prison, and, in fact, his wife believed that if he stayed much longer, he was going to die, for spies that were convicted in our American judicial system.
“That was not an equal trade. We opened up additional mounts of travel, so many of you may have gone as — like, I say in quotes, education trips. And now that those have been expanded the president has that authority to do so. And nothing in return.”
Yet in the same speech, Bush endorsed the president’s request for a near-blank check from Congress to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and any other agreements he – and possible Democratic successors – might pursue over the next five years.
The disconnect arguably is wider on Iran. House Speaker John Boehner is so worried that President Obama will ultimately cave in and accept an agreement that will enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons that he’s bent Washington protocol and created a firestorm by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address Congress to warn against such appeasement. Moreover, speaking about Mr. Obama’s executive action on immigration, Boehner has declared, “There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our law.” Yet Boehner’s only criticism of the president’s trade policies is that Mr. Obama hasn’t worked hard enough to win Democrats’ support.
Regarding Iran, Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan emphatically agrees with Boehner. The Ways and Means Chair has insisted that “The president’s policies with Iran have bipartisan concern. A huge bipartisan majority in both the House and the Senate are very worried about the handling of these negotiations.” But he’s tried to justify his enthusiasm for “fast tracking” Mr. Obama’s trade deals through Congress by insisting that “I am not saying to enhance our leverage we have to enhance the administration’s power—far from it. What I’m saying is this bill would enhance Congress’s power. TPA empowers Congress.” What Ryan has not explained is why he thinks the president is more likely to follow the law on trade than he’s been on immigration.
But at least Ryan doesn’t descend into the outright schizophrenia displayed by Rep. Darrell Issa. The California Republican, a fierce Obama critic, told the Washington Post, “This president has earned our distrust, but having said that, I still support TPA. I still want to have the trade team be able to go forward and make good offers.”
One explanation for these seeming inconsistencies may be these Republicans’ belief that bad trade deals are much less likely to damage important U.S. interests than are bad national security deals – though that will be a tricky argument to make during an economic recovery with which few Americans are happy. Or maybe most Republican leaders think that, although President Obama’s terrible instincts on economics become excellent once matters go international? That’s a contention that looks too clever by half.
Instead, these clashing Republican positions seem best explained by the role of Big Money in politics. America’s offshoring lobby has told these lawmakers to jump. And their only uncertainty is “How high?”
Bill Kennedy said:
Darrell Issa recently displayed similar schizophrenia regarding the replacement of 500 software workers at Southern California Edison by H-1B workers, which he calls ‘deeply disturbing.’
His cure, the ‘Skills Visa Act,’ is much worse than the disease.
‘To prevent replacing U.S. workers, Issa, in his statement, pointed to legislation that he co-sponsored in the last session of Congress, the Skills Visa Act. (HR 2131), which he said “includes stronger prevailing wage protections to ensure that companies aren’t simply using the program to replace existing workers with lower cost imported labor.”
The Skills Visa Act would also significantly increase the H-1B cap, and has been backed by Compete America, a leading lobbying group on immigration issues for the tech industry.
This legislation would increase employment green cards for skilled labor, and raises the H-1B base cap from its current 65,000 to 155,000. The cap for advanced degree holders from U.S. schools would double, from 20,000 to 40,000.
Among the critics of the Skills Visa Act, is The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which published a briefing paper that looked at the impact of the bill and the Senate’s failed comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744). It said that if either bill were adopted “a conservative estimate is that there will be 180,000 new college-educated IT workers under 30 years old entering the labor market every year via guestworker visas or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) green cards.”
“If this occurs, each year the number of new IT guestworkers and STEM green card beneficiaries will be greater than the number of new hires of young IT college graduates in 2011,”‘
Bill Kennedy said:
Incidentally the number of H-1B visas is nominally 65,000 plus 20,000 for those with U.S. graduate degrees, but mainly because workers at universities and other non-profits don’t count, the actual number is much higher.
For Fiscal Year 2013 it was 153,000.
Click to access FY13AnnualReport-TableXVIB.pdf