Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan joined me in the second hour today to promote Trade Promotion Authority, and replied in the course of doing so to criticisms of TPA made earlier in the show by Texas Governor Rick Perry and to my belief that Congress ought to combine TPA with Ex-Im and pass both bills to help American exports:
HH: Joined now by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan. Mr. Chairman, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.
PR: Good to be with you, Hugh. How are you doing?
HH: I’m great. I have a new book coming out next week, The Queen, which has a chapter about you in it. So I hope you haven’t read that, yet.
PR: Really? Oh, send it to me.
HH: Okay, I will. Absolutely. Hey, you’re out on the road promoting trade promotion authority, and we’ve been talking a lot about it. I’m a big proponent of it. But Rick Perry was just on, and I want to play for you what Governor Perry had to say and get your reaction to it.
HH: Earlier today, Governor Perry, Breitbart reported that you had turned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and would urge Republicans to block the trade promotion authority. Paul Ryan will be on later this hour to urge Republicans to vote for that. Have you flip-flopped on this?
PR: Well, listen, as you find out information, I don’t mind, just like with the Ex-Im Bank, I believe that America has to be a competitor out there. I think that we have to do everything we can to sell our products around the world. But with the Ex-Im Bank, when it became abundantly clear of the fraud and the corruption that was going on there, I finally said listen, I can’t support you anymore. At this particular point in time, this thing needs to go away. And the TPP has now become that type of an animal, if you will. And when you will not tell a Congress, and when you will not tell the American people what is in a trade agreement, Washington has a real issue with trust as it is.
HH: All right, so you heard what he just said. He changed it there, Chairman Ryan. What do you say to that?
PR: I need to give Rick a call. First of all, this is why you want TPA. TPA isn’t a trade agreement. TPP is a trade agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPA is the process. And what TPA says is you’ve got to open up these agreements. You’ve got to make them public. You’ve got to give members of Congress access to any classified material that is, while it’s classified. And then when an agreement occurs, because TPP doesn’t exist, yet, when TPP actually exists, once it’s agreed, you’ve got to make the whole thing public, every scrap of it, every document. So trade promotion authority is our response to a secretive administration that says disclosure, transparency, oh, and by the way, you cannot put in a trade agreement any climate change stuff, any immigration stuff. It’s just got to be a trade agreement. Oh, and also by the way, Congress decides. Congress has to say yes or no to a trade agreement, or else it doesn’t happen.
HH: So you can legislate the protections that Rick Perry wants?
PR: Yeah, I mean, that’s what TPA does. So I think there’s a little confusion here. TPP is a trade agreement that’s been negotiated for, Bush started it. It’s been on the dockets for years. It’s being negotiated. They’re not done negotiating it. We don’t have the kind of access, we in Congress don’t have the access to the documents, because right now, without trade promotion authority, it’s whatever the administration wants to give us. It’s their discretion.
HH: Well, I get it. And so…
PR: With trade promotion authority, we get total access to all these documents. And then when there’s an agreement, make it public.
HH: I’m leading you into a little bit of a corner here, because I disagree with both you and the Governor, because I’m a big TPA-TPP supporter, and I support the Ex-Im Bank. And if there are problems with any of them, you fix it by law. And I can’t, I’m export driven. We’ve got to sell American products, and I think killing off the Ex-Im Bank is the worst thing we could do after not passing TPA. TPA would be worse than not the Ex-Im Bank. Why not just fix the Ex-Im Bank, Congressman?
PR: Well, actually, there’s where you and I disagree, and I was against Ex-Im before, I think, Rick was. I see Export-Import Bank as sort of a function of crony capitalism. It goes to the biggest of the Fortune 500 companies. It applies to 1% of our exports. And I think what it does is it’s sort of, it’s America adopting a me, too standard of it other countries support with subsidies from hard-working taxpayers the exports of big companies, then we should do the same thing, too.
HH: Yeah, and that’s exactly. But I looked at Wisconsin, and there’s Urban Manufacturing, Inc…
HH: There’s a whole bunch of companies, the ones that sell cranes up there.
PR: I’ve gotten their letters.
HH: And so if we just abandon the field, we lose jobs and we lose exports. We need to negotiate a sort of a GATT deal on ending export credits, but not unilaterally withdrawing, right?
PR: Well, what we should do, in my opinion, where we do agree, is get trade agreements. Get free trade. Free trade works. Free trade works for America. Free trade grows the economy, creates jobs, higher incomes. And you can’t get a trade agreement without trade promotion authority. That’s what we’re looking at right now. Trade promotion authority is a process. It’s not a trade agreement. And the process we have here says to the administration give us access to all the documents. Oh, and when there’s an agreement, when you actually have an agreement, make it public for 60 days before a president can even send it to Congress for our consideration, and then we take 30 days to consider it. That’s more transparency.
HH: Now the obvious thing, the obvious thing to me is there are a bunch of Republicans and Democrats who want TPA, and there are a bunch of Republicans and Democrats who want Ex-Im.
HH: So you put both TPA and Ex-Im together in a bill and it passes, everybody wins.
PR: Yeah, I don’t think it would work quite like that. There are people who are too opposed to either that would never, that wouldn’t support it because of the other. I would say to the Governor, both Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, the Senators from Texas, were proud supporters of TPA, wrote about it, voted for it. It’s because they believe in free trade. It’s because they believe that this TPA brings more accountability, helps put us in charge of the process. It helps put more controls over the Obama administration. I don’t think the two Texas Senators, Cruz and Cornyn, would have done that, would have voted for TPA if it didn’t put more controls over the administration.
HH: But that’s internal, that’s internal Republican politics. I’m thinking about it would be good, like you guys fixed Medicare with the doc fix, it would be good if everyone got on board with a TPA/Ex-Im Bank thing, and everyone took a haircut a little bit, and that you legislated.
PR: I hear you. I don’t think it would work that way. The people who are so against Ex-Im would vote no if it was put into something. The people who are so against TPA would vote no, even if it had Ex-Im that they like in it, and I think it would collapse under its own weight if you did that, just my opinion.
HH: All right, you know, worth trying. Quick question, are we going to see a tax bill, because no one’s called me to ask my opinion on what should be in it.
PR: (laughing) You and I talked about the mortgage interest deduction for…we did this, as I recall.
HH: And if the Ways and Means…(laughing) I know, but no one’s ever called to say what you must have. Are you guys going to unveil a magic mystery tax bill and then expect us all to say yay?
PR: No, we’re, the problem we have is this little thing called Barack Obama.
PR: (laughing) That’s sort of the stumbling block we have right now to getting good tax reform.
HH: But we need something to campaign on in 2016.
PR: Oh, yeah. No, I fully intend on building something out in 2016 with fellow conservatives to show the country what real tax reform looks like. But getting it right now with this President? I’m sorry, but…
HH: So Lee-Rubio does not, you don’t think that’s a starter to throw at the President?
PR: I’m glad these guys are putting ideas out there, but I think we want to keep going even farther.
HH: Chairman Paul Ryan, always a pleasure, TPA on your radar, thanks for responding to Governor Perry. We’ll get it pushed out and let everyone know. But remember, Ex-Im and TPA, I think that adds up, 2+2=4 and a passed bill.
End of interview.