Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Posted on 2015-05-12
HATCH. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for his kindness in
I listened to the debate, and I have to say I am very disappointed.
Everybody knew that Senator Schumer accommodated us--the ranking member and myself--in putting the language on the Customs bill. In fact, here is what Senator Schumer said: And, explicitly I did not offer the currency amendment to the TPA bill. We were told that it would not be part--if it were part of TPA it might kill it. My goal is not to use currency to kill the TPA bill and not to kill the TPA bill, it's to get currency passed. And that's why we offered it to the customs bill, on the view, strong view, that no one disputed in committee that we'd get a vote separately on the customs bill on the floor, that it would come to the floor just like the other bills.
That was the agreement. The distinguished Senator from Oregon knows that was the agreement; that we were going to lump the two together, the TPA and TAA--although I would have preferred to have those voted on separately, but we agreed to do that because there was a concern on the Democratic side that maybe we wouldn't put TAA out. That was a ridiculous concern because we know TPA can't pass unless you give the unions what they want on TAA. So we grit our teeth and we were willing to do that. We put them together so we could accommodate again. And it was completely understood that the AGOA bill, the next two bills, would be voted on separately. Senator Schumer knew, and said so; that he realized it would give the House a very, very bad stomachache because they probably couldn't put this bill through with that language on it.
I even agreed with Senator Schumer that we could have hearings later. He could bring up a bill. We would have hearings. We would have a markup on the currency matters because there are a lot of people who would like to see something done on currency--but not to destroy the TPA bill or, should I say, all of the negotiations that this administration has been conducting with regard to TPP--the Trans- Pacific Partnership--with 11 nations, including Japan, which has always been difficult to get to the table because they have very great concerns there, but they were willing to come to the table. And it might ruin TTIP, which is 28 nations in Europe.
Forty to sixty percent of all trade in the world would come through these two agreements that would be done by the Trade Representative, subject to the review by Congress provided in TPA, which happens to be the procedural mechanism pursuant to which we can assert congressional control over these foreign policy agreements, these trade agreements.
So there was no agreement to bring these up all at one time. The first time I heard that was, I think, yesterday or the day before, and I was flabbergasted. To have our colleagues vote against cloture on a bill the President wants more than any other bill, after he talked to them, is astounding to me.
So I am going to take a moment to talk about what transpired this afternoon because I think it warrants further discussion.
As I stated this morning, with today's vote, we were trying to do something good for the American people, to advance our Nation's trade agenda and to provide good jobs for American workers, all of which would happen should we get this through both Houses of Congress and the President signs it into law.
Now, to do that, we can't have killer amendments put on bills that everybody knows will kill it and that the President can't sign. I know people disagree with us on how we intended to get there. That much was clear from the outset. Sadly, these colleagues--who have always been against TPA--were unwilling to have a discussion about their disagreements in a fair and open debate, and, I have to say, that was all of them on the other side today. Instead, they voted this afternoon to prevent any such debate from taking place.
We are willing to debate, we are willing to have amendments, but I am also only willing to abide by the agreement we have with Senator Schumer with regard to the Customs bill. That was the agreement, and I compliment Senator Schumer for being willing to put it on there because he knew it would kill TPA.
Needless to say, I am disappointed by this outcome.
While we are talking about trade policy at large, the bill receiving the most attention was, of course, the TPA bill, which is bipartisan. I made sure it was bipartisan--that we could work together, that we could come together, that we could all basically feel good about it--and it passed 20 to 6, which is astounding to even me. I didn't know [[Page S2790]] we would get seven Democrats on the bill, and I compliment the distinguished ranking member for working hard to get seven Democrats on the bill. But still, that doesn't take away the fact that the minority leader and others don't want any bill at all.
While we are talking about trade policy at large, I would just say the bill receiving the most attention was, of course, the TPA bill, which is bipartisan, supported by Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate, by the way, not to mention the President of the United States and his administration.
On April 22, the bill was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee by a historic vote of 20 to 6, with seven Democrats on the committee voting to report the bill. The bill which was President Obama's top legislative priority, by the way, was riding a wave of amendments headed to the floor. Yet, today, the mere thought of even debating this bill was apparently too much for my Democratic colleagues to bear. Nothing changed. It is the same bill we reported out of committee. I can remember the happy time we had talking about how wonderful it was to finally get this bill out of the committee, after going to 10 p.m. one night and actually beyond that for staff.
This is the same bill we have been talking about for months. The only thing that was different today than just a few days ago was the strategy being employed by the opposition.
As we all know, the TPA bill wasn't the only trade bill reported out of the Finance Committee in April. We also reported a bill to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance, a bill to reauthorize some trade preference programs and a Customs and Enforcement bill.
A few days before we were to begin the floor debate on trade policy, we heard rumblings from our colleagues on the other side, and we started hearing statements from some Senators, including some who had generally been supportive of TPA, that they would only support the pending motion to proceed if they had assurances that all four bills-- TPA, TAA, preferences, and Customs--would be debated and passed at the same time. That never was the agreement, and everybody understood that. These new demands brought forward at the eleventh hour were problematic for a number of reasons, most notably because, as reported out of the Finance Committee, the Customs bill faces a number of problems both with the White House and the House of Representatives, and my friends on the other side realized that in this bipartisan effort that we were making together. They recognized that there were problems for both the White House and House of Representatives that would prevent it from being enacted into law any time soon. I will not detail all the problems, but I think most of my colleagues know what they are. But I will say that those problems existed from the beginning and we knew about them at the outset. We had people on the committee who were totally opposed to this bill. I made sure they had a right to bring up their amendments. I respect them. I don't agree with them. I can't even agree on how they ever reached the positions that they do. But the fact is they have a right to do that, and we protected that right.
Now, I might say these problems existed from the beginning. We knew about them from the onset. That is why the ranking member of the Finance Committee and I agreed at our markup to move our four trade bills separately.
As one of the principal authors of three of the four trade bills, I want to be very clear because there has apparently been some confusion on this point. There was never a plan to move all four of these bills together or as part of TPA.
While we agreed that TPA and TAA would have to move on parallel tracks--we did agree to that--there was no such agreement with regard to the other bills, only a commitment that we would do our best to try to get all four enacted into law, with no guarantees that they would be but to do our very best.
The agreement with TPA and TAA was honored. Both the majority leader and I made clear today that if cloture was invoked on the motion to proceed, we would file a substitute amendment that included both of these bills--TPA and TAA.
We also made commitments--commitments I had already made--to work with our colleagues to find a path forward on the Customs and the preferences legislation. But that was not enough, apparently. We have had numerous discussions regarding alternative paths for other trade bills. That was not enough, either. The only thing they would accept was full inclusion of all the trade bills at the outset of the debate. We could not agree to that, and they knew it.
Of course, to be fair, some of the Democrats were not necessarily insisting that the four bills be part of the same package. Instead, they just wanted guarantees that all of them would be enacted into law. That is not the way it works around here.
I do not even know how to comment on that. It is, to put it bluntly, simply absurd to think that a Senate leader can guarantee any bill will become law before a debate even begins. Yet those were the demands we faced over the last few days. Although they were obviously impossible, we worked in good faith to try to reach an accommodation with those who--in my opinion--were not working in good faith. And I am willing to forgive that. Even then, there was no path to yes.
Of course, as we all know that the idea for demanding a ``four bills or no bills'' strategy did not originate in the Finance Committee. This demand materialized last week and came directly from the Senate Democratic leadership, virtually all of whom oppose TPA and their President on this bill, outright. Sadly, it seems they were able to sell this idea to other Members of their caucus, including more than a few who should know better.
We were never talking about reaching an agreement with people who wanted a path forward on good trade legislation. We have been talking about an idea devised for the sole purpose of stopping progress on TPA. At least for today, it appears they have been successful.
Once again, I am disappointed. A lot of work has gone into this effort in both the Senate and the House of Representatives--not to mention the administration. I, personally, have been at this from the very moment I took over as the lead Republican on the Senate Finance Committee in January 2011.
In January 2014--more than a year ago--I introduced legislation with the former chairmen, Max Baucus and Dave Camp, that formed the basis of the bill that we had hoped to start debating this week. Both Baucus and Camp were committed to this effort. Sadly, Chairman Camp retired and Chairman Baucus was sent off to China.
When Senator Wyden took over the committee, I worked with him to address his concerns about the bill, and that work continued after I took over as chairman this year. Even though I thought some of his proposals were unworkable, I bent over backwards to accommodate his desires, because in the end, I thought it would broaden support for TPA, and I wanted to please him, as my partner on the committee.
Chairman Ryan joined us in this effort, and we did all we could to put together a bill and a path forward that both parties could support. We met with Chairman Ryan regularly. Until the last few days and the advent of these new demands materializing out of whole cloth, I thought we had been successful. Even after these new demands came up, I did my best to find an agreement, working right up to the vote to find a reasonable path forward. But, apparently, something reasonable was not in the cards.
Everyone here knows I am an optimist. I still believe we can get something done, that we can work something out. I have told the President the same. I am still willing to do what it takes to pass these bills. I hope my colleagues will see the light here and come to the table with some realistic alternatives for a path forward. Until that happens, the President is going to have to wait on these trade agreements, as will all the farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and other job creators in our country who desperately need market access and a level international playing field in order to compete.
In the future, if we see a sharp decline in U.S. agriculture and manufacturing and if the United States retreats [[Page S2791]] from the world, ceding the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, to China's overwhelming economic influence, people may very well look back at today's events and wonder why we could not get our act together. I am already thinking that. Why couldn't we get our act together? I certainly hope that does not happen--that these other nations-- particularly China--take advantage of our not getting our act together. Perhaps, in my frustration, I am being a little dramatic. Still, I have no doubt that some will come to regret what went on here today--one way or another.
As for me, I have no regrets. I have done all I can to get these important bills across the finish line. I am going to continue to do all I can in the future to get these bills across the finish line.
Unfortunately, after today, it is very unclear how many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are willing to do the same. I believe there are honest, good people on that side of the aisle who want to make this right, who want to make up for what happened here today. I feel confident that is so. I am going to proceed on the basis that that is so. I sure hope it is so because, my gosh, to put this Nation's foreign policy--especially in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular--on hold when we could be building relationships in these countries as never before and at the same time spurring on international trade as never before is a matter of grave concern to me.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.