One of the major issues that has caused a divide of late in the Republican presidential field is the granting of fast track authority to the Obama administration to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership. Earlier tonight, Senator Rand Paul came out against granting Obama fast track authority. Paul told WMUR.com that “the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement ‘is being held under lock and key’ by the Obama administration ‘because they’re afraid that if the public knows what we are going to vote on, that somehow that would destroy the republic.'” This is a move that builds on Paul’s long record of being an advocate of US sovereignty, notably being the most anti-UN candidate in the race.
It also stands in clear contrast to two other candidates in the race, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have advocated in favor of granting Obama this authority. This is notable for Ted Cruz in particular, whose position is very out of step with the conservative grassroots he is currently courting for votes. It will be interesting to see Cruz attempt to explain how this lines up with his constitutionalist platform, as it clearly makes a mockery of congress’s advise and consent role under the Constitution. It will also be interesting to see if the Paul camp capitalizes on this contrast to attempt to gain further ground in tea party groups.
There will be a major debate over this trade agreement during the 2016 elections, and it will be fascinating to see where the candidates come down on removing this power from congress and placing it in the hands of the executive. As we have more candidates enter the race, the politics of the issue may heat up as candidates use it to set a clear contrast with their rivals. A Republican electorate that is as weary of a powerful executive as ever after 6+ years of Barack Obama may not treat those on the president’s side of the issue very kindly.