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Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) angered labor unions and other groups a few months back. He'd met with some of them and told them he was undecided on the related fast-track and Trans Pacific Partnership trade bills that were still to come from President Barack Obama. Yet the activists learned to their expressed dismay that he had signed a letter with fellow Republicans March 6 urging Obama to send the Congress a fast-track (Trade Promotion Authority) bill. The anti-TPP groups called rallies at his office and even staged a mock funeral to mark the demise of American jobs. Zeldin insisted all along that he was undecided.
On the House floor on Friday, Zeldin voted against the fast-track bill.
For context, here is the full news release from his spokeswoman, Jennifer DiSiena:
Congressman Zeldin Votes No on Trade Promotion Authority Proposal
"Today, I voted NO on TPA. After reviewing the TPA legislation, and hearing from thousands of constituents in New Yorkas First Congressional District who contacted me almost entirely in opposition, and with serious questions still outstanding on the merits, I could not support this proposal.
"First off, the entire process of negotiating trade agreements needs to be improved. In reality, TPA legislation that is designed constitutionally and as effectively as possible should be passed before a negotiation is started, not 5 years into negotiations. Negotiating objectives should be set before negotiating, not towards the end.
"Furthermore, the process of turning off afast tracka should be made remarkably simple if negotiating objectives arenat met. There also needs to be a process along the way that assures the American public that the negotiating objectives are being strictly and completely adhered to.
"On April 30th, 2015, I had my first opportunity to read the current draft of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. I was left with the belief that the entire TPA debate is a little late to the dance. It is amazing just how much content is already in the text.
"I am a very strong believer that trade is a driving force in our economy. 38 Million American jobs are tied to trade. 38 million! Additionally, American jobs that are tied to trade abroad pay 16 percent more than the other American jobs not tied to trade.
"American exceptionalism is the United States taking the lead in the global economy. Increasing GDP, boosting a trade surplus, and exporting American goods all help to strengthen our economy and security. Growth opportunities are currently abroad with 96 percent of the worldas customers living outside our nationas borders.
"Tariffs on American exports that exist in foreign countries are taxes and barriers to America increasing our Gross Domestic Product, improving our economy, and creating more American jobs. When the Japanese place barriers on American agriculture from entering Japan it may help the Japanese farmer, but it reduces competition, drives up prices, and hurts the Japanese economy. The agriculture industry in America is ready to increase exports to Japan and trade negotiations are the vehicle to bring down those barriers and create those opportunities.
"Let's deliver more 'Made in America' products to Asia instead of the other way around. This requires improving the business climate here in the U.S. with tax and regulatory policy changes. Modernizing and simplifying our tax code will be key.
As for the TPA and TPP, my constituents are more confused today than at any other time in recent memory trying to figure out what exactly is Americaas trade agenda. There should be no secrecy as to what specifically the President is trying to accomplish on trade. Aside from knowing what countries the President would like to negotiate new agreements with, for some reason the specifics of what he is asking for is not known by the American public. My staff and I have dedicated hours a day on average trying to determine these specifics. The best information I can find is in the Trans Pacific Partnership draft itself, but I can't discuss the details, because the whole thing is entirely classified. The President should have let the American public know so much more by now about what he is seeking to accomplish.
In the lifetime of a nation like the United States of America, now is not too early or too late to recalibrate and reengage in a way that the American public feels like their voices and input are being heard and that their representatives in Congress are setting the conditions and not just going along to get along.
This may be a top priority of the President and many of my House Republican colleagues, but my deliberations and decisions on these proposals must be approached with the independent spirit that represents the proud, independent character of my district.
"In just under 20 months, a new President takes office. Let's use this time now hearing from the American public, employers and employees, the CEO and the regular Joe, and letas get on the same page where the people's voice is leading the way with a trade agenda that we are all more invested in, that Americans feel more a part of, and a new President with negotiating objectives set by Congress and the American people first."