As Republicans in Congress continue to argue over whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement contains language to advance comprehensive immigration reform, the White House on Tuesday told Newsmax that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., was correct when he said two weeks ago that warnings of the TPP advancing the president’s immigration agenda are "absolutely not true" and "the latest urban legend."
"We believe that the way to ultimately resolve our broken immigration system is to pass legislation that would ultimately bring some accountability to our broken immigration system," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told Newsmax, "and we believe that is something Congress should do and we’ve made that case for a long time."
"But," the president’s top spokesman emphasized, "I do not envision that being coupled together with this other economic priority — this passage of TPA [Trade Promotion Authority] legislation that gives the president the authority he needs to complete the TPP agreement and the authority he needs to enforce it."
In pointing to Ryan’s insistence that immigration is not contained in TPP, Newsmax also cited a "Dear Colleague" letter from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., underscoring the point that "[t]here is nothing in the current draft of the TPP that will in any way advance or facilitate this or any other unconstitutional action by the administration [emphasis added]."
However, we also noted that other Republican lawmakers — notably Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. — flatly disagree with Ryan and Goodlatte, saying immigration reform is in fact in the language of TPP.
"Who's right?" we asked Earnest.
"Well, I think I’d trust the word of Ambassador [U.S. Trade Representative Michael] Froman," replied Earnest. "He obviously has the principal responsibility for negotiating this agreement. I know that this is a discussion that he's had with members of Congress quite frequently."
So Ryan and Goodlatte are correct in their assertion about no immigration in TPP, we asked?
"And I think they said that after their own conversation with Ambassador Froman and considering he is the principal negotiator here, I think he’s an awfully good source," he told us. "I don’t think there’s a better one."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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