POLITICS

Ted Cruz flips on support for TPA trade bill as Senate votes in favor of legislation

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2014 file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Unhappy Republicans say Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas left a gift certificate good for confirmation of 12 judicial appointments for President Barack Obama and Democrats this holiday season. Only a month or so ago, voters delivered them a lump of coal in mid-term elections.  (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2014 file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Unhappy Republicans say Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas left a gift certificate good for confirmation of 12 judicial appointments for President Barack Obama and Democrats this holiday season. Only a month or so ago, voters delivered them a lump of coal in mid-term elections. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)  ((AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File))

Ted Cruz has done a complete 180 turn in his stance toward a major trade bill that is on the brink of final approval — arguing that the deal has become "enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom deal-making."

The fiery Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate was once a major supporter of the trade legislation, even co-authoring a Wall Street Journal opinion piece along with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan in April in favor of the fast-track bill, known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). But on Tuesday, just hours before the Senate voted 60-37 in favor of the bipartisan legislation, Cruz voiced his concern that the legislation could introduce changes in federal immigration law.

"Despite the administration’s public assurances that it was not negotiating on immigration, several chapters of the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) draft posted online explicitly contained potential changes in federal immigration law," Cruz wrote in an opinion piece Tuesday for Breitbart. "TPA would cover TiSA, and therefore these changes would presumably be subject to fast-track."

He added: "When TPA last came up for a vote, both Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and I introduced amendments that would have barred fast-track treatment for any trade agreement that attempted to impact immigration law. Two other Republican senators objected, and we were both denied votes on our amendments."

Cruz also said that cross-aisle support for the TPA was due in large part to promises of support on the objective of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

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"The Ex-Im Bank is a classic example of corporate welfare," Cruz wrote. "It is cronyism at its worst, with U.S. taxpayers guaranteeing billions of dollars in loans for sketchy buyers in foreign nations."

The Texas lawmaker’s heated words, however, appeared to fall on deaf ears before Tuesday vote, as the 60-37 vote was precisely the number needed to set-up a final vote on Wednesday.

It is one of several measures comprising Obama's second-term trade agenda as the administration works to finalize a 12-nation agreement among countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Another bill, aimed to provide federal aid to workers who lose their jobs because of imports, is also awaiting approval. The rescue plan hatched last week calls for the Senate to pass that measure and the House to follow suit later this week, just before lawmakers leave for their July 4 break.

Eager to reassure Democrats who expressed doubt about a GOP commitment to pass a follow-up bill, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement saying the House will vote on it "once it passes the Senate."

The legislation has the support of the administration and business organizations, who say it is necessary to win lower barriers to U.S-made goods around the world.

Opponents include organized labor and most Democrats in Congress, who argue that past global trade deals have resulted in the large scale loss of American jobs — and claim this time would be no different.

Those differences were reflected on the Senate floor.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the vote demonstrated "we can work together on something that's important for our country."

But Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said it would be a "day of celebration in corporate suites."

The week's maneuvering came a little less than two weeks after the House derailed the trade legislation in a revolt triggered by union-backed Democrats and supported by the party's leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

Originally, the trade negotiating authority and program of aid for displaced workers were part of one bill, but subject to separate votes.

Democrats who normally support the aid turned against it in the House, and voted it down. That temporarily derailed the entire legislation, sending Obama, McConnell and Boehner scurrying to come up with a rescue plan.

The revised approach was to separate the trade bill from the aid measure, and rely on a strong Republican vote to pass one of them, and a strong Democratic show of support to approve the other.

Obama has said consistently he wants both measures to reach his desk, but House Democrats have not yet said if they will try to block the aid program as part of a desperate move to persuade Obama not to sign the trade bill he so eagerly seeks.

Nor has Obama said what he would do if only the trade bill passes, and the aid measure remains stuck because Democrats without support.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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