Hatch, Shaheen, McCain, Ayotte, Wicker, Cochran, Stabenow, Recess Until 2:15 PM

Vehicle for Trade Promotion Authority (H.R. 1314)

Senator Hatch: (11:20 AM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "When I hear my colleagues talk about "fast-track," I think this is where they start the clock. They are disregarding the years of oversight and consultations that occurred during trade negotiations. They are ignoring the many months of congressional consideration of trade legislation that occurs before the president ever formally submits that legislation to Congress. They are discounting that by to point in the process Congress has held hearings on the agreement, received views from the public, and extensively reviewed the agreement and the implementing legislation through an informal markup. Calling this part of the process "fast-track" is like skipping to the end of the book and saying the author did not develop the plot. As I said, even here at the end of the process, the bill provides more than three months for hearings, committee action, floor debate, and votes."


Senator Shaheen: (11:32 AM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "There's no scientific or food safety benefit here, in fact, officials from F.D.A. and USDA have explicitly stated that catfish is a low-risk food. The Government Accountability Office has recommended eliminating this program in nine separate reports, even worse, this program is actually a trade barrier thinly disguised against foreign catfish about we're facing an immediate five to seven year ban on imported catfish as soon as the USDA program is up and running. As a result our trading partners are explicitly threatening retaliation. And since there's no scientific basis for this program, any W.T.O. nation that current exports catfish to the U.S. could challenge it and secure W.T.O. sanction trade retaliation against a wide range of U.S. export industries, including beef, soy, poultry, pork, grain, fruit, or cotton. The program is becoming a major issue of concern in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation potions."


Senator McCain: (11:39 AM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "The amendment would end the waste of taxpayers' money pouring into the creation of a USDA catfish office, which is about $20 million to date. It would also save American farmers and livestock growers from potentially losing billions of dollars in lost access to Asian nations. As the senator from New Hampshire pointed out, I've been fighting this catfish battle for a long time. I first tried to kill an old catfish labeling program in the 2002 farm bill. Later during the Senate's debate on the 2012 farm bill, I offered a similar amendment to repeal this new catfish program which was adopted by voice vote. But when the Senate took up the 2014 farm bill after failing to pass it in 2012, I was blocked from having a vote by the Democratic manager despite her assurances that my amendment would receive a vote … All I want is a vote. All I'm asking for a vote, up-or-down vote on whether we should continue to squander millions of taxpayers' dollars on a program that is not only duplicative but endangers the entire trans-pacific partnership agreement which we are discussing today."


Senator Ayotte: (11:57 AM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "I want to offer my support for this amendment and I do believe we should have a vote on this. Why wouldn't we have a vote on a program that is demonstrated by nine G.A.O. reports to be wasteful, wasting millions of dollars that could go to pay down our debt, that could go for programs that are worthwhile, and yet here we are, we can't even get a vote. I share my colleagues' concern. I thank Senator McCain and Senator Shaheen for bringing this important amendment forward, and I hope we will have a vote to eliminate the wasteful money going into the USDA inspection regime of catfish. How many times do we need our catfish inspected? It's absurd and time to end this waste and quit wasting taxpayer dollars."


Senator Wicker: (12:01 PM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "But here's what the report that's now been buried says, and I will quote from the report of the Department of Agriculture. "Whether or not the agency used random or risk-based samplings, applying the food safety inspection service program to imported catfish yielded a reduction of approximately 175,000 lifetime cancers." 175,000 lifetime cancers for Americans. I want that kind of reduction in carcinogens coming into the United States and .79 acute toxicities using random sampling yielded a reduction of 91,800,000 exposures to antimicrobials and 23 million heavy metal exposures. We're talking about carcinogens, we're talking about improper antimicrobials that the USDA program would catch and over 23 million exposures to heavy metals that don't need in the United States."


Senator Cochran: (12:08 PM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "USDA catfish inspection is about protecting the health and safety of American consumers. The 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills required catfish inspection responsibilities to be transferred from the Food and Drug Administration to the USDA food safety and inspection service upon publication of final regulations. Need for this regulatory clarification is clear. American consumers could be exposed to dangerous chemical and unapproved drugs in the imported catfish they eat. According to the Government Accountability Office, about half of the seafood imported into the United States comes from farm-raised fish. Fish grown in confined areas have been shown to contain bacterial inspections. F.D.A.'s oversight program to ensure the safety of imported seafood from residues of unapproved drugs is limited, especially as compared with the practices of other developed countries."


Senator Stabenow: (12:12 PM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "At this point in time when we look at currency manipulation, it's the most significant 21st century trade barrier there is, and to quote the vice president of international government affairs for Ford Motor Company and "The Wall Street Journal," currency manipulation is the mother of all trade barriers. That's it. We can compete with any car manufacturer in the world, but we can't compete with the bank of Japan." So we want our businesses, we want our workers to have a level playing field and a global economy. When we are giving instructions, giving up the right to amend the Trans-Pacific Partnership through this fast-track process, 40 percent of the global economy, we have the right and obligation, to make sure we have a negotiating principle in there. We're not mandating exactly what it looks like. We're just saying a negotiating principle that addresses the number-one trade barrier right now to American businesses, which is currency manipulation. By some estimates, it has cost the United States five million jobs, and if we don't address it in a reasonable way, it will cost us millions more."


The Senate stands in recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus luncheons.