Don’t put congressional trade authority on ‘fast track’ to oblivion

In this June 12, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. leave meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington to discuss the global trade talks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Washington keeps talking unrealities and I don’t know what to think. For example, we have the constitutional law professor, President Obama, saying that the most deliberative body, the U.S. Senate, must not deliberate and unconstitutionally give him “fast track” trade authority.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states: “The Congress shall have power ... to regulate commerce with foreign nations ...”

But President Obama says he must have the power or China will set the rules for trade. That’s our trouble. China is already setting the rules for trade, and Corporate America not only loves China’s rules, but Wall Street, the big banks and Corporate America contribute to the president and Congress (Republicans and Democrats) to do nothing to disturb the flow of China profits.

The president and Congress do nothing. Moreover, the people do nothing. The people keep re-electing their House members and senators.

Under fast track, Congress is allowed to read the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in a secure room, but it is not final. Members of Congress are not allowed to discuss the classified sections or talk with each other to clarify the technical language. A treaty that changes the laws can be amended, but Congress, under fast track, can’t amend the TPP agreement. Fast track is an unconstitutional deception of the executive branch.

The president fixes the votes of the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and of a few leaders on trade, and the rest go along.

On foreign policy, Washington is always coming up with military training and advising. After 10 years in Vietnam, we learned that the military training and advising couldn’t change a country’s culture. After 10 years in Iraq, we learned that the military couldn’t meld three religions into a democracy. And we ought to know by now that three religions are not going to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS).

Saudi Arabia is creating more ISIS terrorists than can be defeated. In Saudi Arabia, there’s no separation of church and state. The state controls religion and education and, in the ninth grade, pupils are taught the Salafi or Wahhabi versions of the Muslim religion. The Salafi’s are intolerant of other Muslims and are taught that Christians and Jews are infidels — must be eliminated, must be beheaded.

ISIS members are just practicing what they learned in the ninth grade. So, to defeat ISIS, the United States must get a commitment from Saudi Arabia that as religion is taught, not to teach violence against other religions. Then the U.S. military — and only the U.S. military — can go in and clean up ISIS.

Congress limited spending in campaigns or elections in 1971 and in 1973. President Nixon signed the law. At that time, no senator would think of raising money against another senator.

But when the Supreme Court, in Buckley vs. Valeo, voided the limit on money in campaigns, House members and senators started raising unlimited money, the Republican and Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committees took over the fundraising, and partisanship set in. In 1993, Democrats cut spending $250 billion and raised taxes $250 billion without a Republican vote, giving President George W. Bush a balanced budget in 2001. But President Bush cut taxes, started wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out, all without paying for them. Democrats felt that Republicans wouldn’t help balance the budget in 1993, and weren’t about to help President Bush balance his budget. Gridlock!

Many think the way to break gridlock is that those in Congress should be more polite, friendly. But they can’t be friendly with unlimited fund-raising. Congress, situated amongst 10,000 lobbyists, has the job of fund-raising morning, noon and night. I tried for a constitutional amendment to empower Congress to limit and control spending in campaigns. My last three years, the Republicans were in control of the Senate and wanted to amend the Constitution to prohibit flag burning. They asked that I withhold my spending limit amendment. I refused and no constitutional amendment was considered in the Senate in 2002, 2003 or 2004.

There’s a movement now to repeal Citizens United, but let’s empower Congress to limit or control spending. Then we can take care of Citizens United and the buying of politicians, and Congress will regain control of the government from the lobbyists.

Gridlock broken.

Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, a Democrat, served as governor of South Carolina from 1959-63 and in the U.S. Senate from 1966-2005.