No one on Capitol Hill has been more dogged in opposing President Obama's Pacific Rim trade pact than Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and her small band of fiercely anti-trade House Democrats. On Thursday, they trotted out a new partner in their fight: Roxy, a 2-year-old bloodhound that they put on the trail to sniff out the elusive text of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
More than three weeks after the Obama administration announced a final deal after years of negotiations, U.S. officials have not yet unveiled the completed document for public purview. DeLauro and a handful of her colleagues demanded that the administration release the text immediately and charged that the White House is holding it back to build up more political support.
"Members of the administration are flying around the country on taxpayer dollars saying what a good agreement it is, but if it is so good for Americans, why can't we see the text?" DeLauro said during a news conference just outside the Capitol. "Perhaps Roxy can help find it," she added as the bloodhound, wearing a fluorescent orange construction vest with "TPP Tracker" written on it, stood dutifully by her side munching on dog biscuits.
— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) October 29, 2015
Under the terms of "fast-track" trade promotion authority that Congress granted Obama in the spring, the administration is required to release the text within 30 days after the president notifies lawmakers of his intent to sign the accord. The agreement then must be public for 60 more days before Obama can sign it and send the deal to Capitol Hill for a vote on final ratification. The White House has not yet notified Congress of the president's intent to sign the TPP deal. Administration officials said lawyers for the United States and the other 11 nations are giving the document a final legal scrub before it will be ready for release.
"Negotiators from all 12 countries are finalizing work on the legal review, translation and verification of the text," said Matthew McAlvanah, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office. "The full text will be released as soon as possible and will be public for months before the agreement is signed, and even longer before Congress would take a vote on the final agreement."
But opponents of the accord have grown impatient. DeLauro and her allies said that Obama aides from the U.S. Trade Representative's office and other agencies have swarmed Capitol Hill to sell the deal, touting its virtues in cutting tariffs and establishing new regulatory provisions, without allowing members to view the actual documents.
Michael Froman, the U.S. trade ambassador, touted the deal during an appearance this week at the Atlantic Council, and Obama highlighted the deal during recent Oval Office meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Indonesia, both of whom expressed interest in their nations joining the TPP accord in the future.
That kind of public lobbying has put skeptics of the deal at a disadvantage, the Democratic lawmakers said.
"Stop with the parade all over the country with the glittering generalities," said Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.).
DeLauro's group has expressed staunch opposition to Obama's trade agenda for years, and the debut of Roxy the bloodhound, which has her own Twitter account, was the latest ploy to gain media attention. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) even dressed up Thursday as Sherlock Holmes, with pipe, hat and magnifying glass. The group has allied with Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, which last week sent lawmakers and reporters fake copies of the TPP text with dozens of blank pages to represent the secrecy of the process.
— Shawn Donnan (@sdonnan) October 21, 2015
One U.S. official involved in the trade effort scoffed at the stunts. "The anti-trade crowd has always lacked in substance and seriousness," said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "For years, it's been a dog and pony show; now they're finally admitting it."
Asked by a reporter about new transparency guidelines released this week by Froman's office, which include pledges to regularly brief Congress and the appointment of a chief transparency officer, the Democratic lawmakers dismissed such promises as empty talk.
"That's just throwing us a bone," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas.