[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 87 (Tuesday, June 2, 2015)]
[Pages H3700-H3755]



                    Amendment Offered by Mr. Grayson

  Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Sec. __. None of the finds made available by this Act may 
     be used to negotiate or enter into a trade agreement whose 
     negotiating texts are confidential. The limitation described 
     in this section shall not apply in the case of the 
     administration of a tax or tariff.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 287, the gentleman 
from Florida and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.
  Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is akin to an amendment 
that was considered just a few moments ago offered by Mr. Meadows. This 
amendment is meant to address a problem that has arisen with trade 
agreements that has become visible to all of us as Members of this 
august body.
  What has happened is that the Trade Representative, for no apparent 
legal reason, with no apparent legal authority, has taken it upon 
himself to negotiate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific 
Partnership in secret--not entirely in secret, just in secret from us 
and from members of the American public.
  The corresponding provision, the TTIP provision, has been posted by 
the European Union, which is our negotiating partner in this on the 
  The Trans-Pacific Partnership itself has been negotiated in secret, 
but that has been posted by WikiLeaks, to the embarrassment of our 
government in an unnecessary manner.
  What we have seen over the past several years is that the Trade 
Representative has turned a deaf ear to our concerns as Members of 
Congress who must perform our oversight functions whenever we ask for 
information about what the Trade Representative is doing on behalf of 
the American people.
  Three years ago, we had the strange circumstance come up that over 
100 Members of Congress, 100 Members of this body, wrote a letter to 
the Trade Representative saying: We hear you are negotiating something 
called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Would you please give us a copy?
  And the answer came back: No. We are not going to give you a copy.
  For the past 5 years, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been 
negotiated in secret. Only in the last few months, Members of Congress 
have been able to see it under the most extreme conditions imaginable. 
I was actually the first person to be able to see it, and the Trade 
Representative came to my office with his staff and offered to show it 
to me, but I couldn't take any notes.

                              {time}  0030

  I couldn't discuss it with my own staff. I couldn't even discuss it 
with other Members of this body. And of course I couldn't make copies 
or otherwise help myself to record what I had seen, much less speak to 
my constituents about it, much less speak to the media about it, much 
less speak to the public about it.
  Respectfully, secret laws are un-American laws; secret agreements are 
un-American agreements. There is no such thing recognized under our 
Constitution as a ``secret statute'' or a ``secret treaty.'' But that 
is, in effect, what we have been experiencing without any legal 
authority whatsoever on behalf of the Trade Representative.
  Now, I am not saying the Trade Representative needs to stop 
negotiating these agreements; not at all. What I am suggesting is that 
we lift the veil of secrecy that has been dropped over these 
negotiations so that we can't see them, the American people can't see 
them, but foreign governments can see them.
  Why is it that we have confidentiality? Why is it that we have a 
classified information system? Generally speaking, it is not to keep 
Americans from seeing this information; it is to keep foreigners from 
seeing this information. And here the world has been turned upside 
down, and we have a situation where foreigners get to see it, but even 
the highest members of our own government--our Senators, our 
Congressmen--we don't get to see it. That is absolutely unacceptable; 
it is un-American.
  The only way to come up with agreements that satisfy the needs of 
this country is through an open, fair, transparent process. That is 
what this simple amendment will accomplish. It says: None of the funds 
made available in this act, which includes funds made to the Trade 
Representative, may be used to negotiate or enter into a trade 
agreement whose negotiating texts are confidential.
  It is time for a little sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. 
It is time for the Members of this body to take control of our 
constitutional responsibilities, not to let the Trade Representative or 
any member of the executive branch tell us to stuff it when we need to 
find out things in order to be able to do our jobs properly.
  Wouldn't it be a better system if we were able to tell a trade 
representative what we think, what our constituents think, what the 
members of the American public think about these documents before they 
are simply dropped on us?
  This is a simple commonsense amendment. There is no existing legal 
authority that allows the Trade Representative to do what he has been 
doing. I say the time is up and we should insist that these agreements, 
which will determine the course of economic history in America for the 
next 20 or 30 years, are agreements that are negotiated in public with 
our approval and with our input.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 
  Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Florida I know has 
worked in the past as an attorney and represented clients and 
undoubtedly has settled cases before. And those settlement agreements, 
those negotiations, when you were designing those agreements, Mr. 
Grayson, I know were not something that you wanted to disclose. You 
wanted to negotiate those settlements in private with your client 
confidentially, because had the world seen what you were working out, 
that would have damaged your client's ability to negotiate a fair 
settlement with the other party in the case.
  As here, with trade promotion authority, the countries with which the 
Trade Representative is negotiating, Japan, for example, I doubt the 
Japanese want the Australians to see what the Japanese are agreeing to. 
That is just common sense. I doubt that the Koreans want the Japanese 
to see what the Koreans are attempting to agree to.
  So it is perfectly understandable that the agreement itself would be 
confidential until it is finalized. Members of Congress can go see the 
agreement, but the Korean-American Trade Agreement is going to be 
confidential until it is finally settled because Korea doesn't want 
Japan or Australia or Vietnam to see what they are negotiating, in the 
same way you did not want your clients, the agreement you were 
attempting to negotiate on behalf of your client, you didn't want to do 
that in the open sunshine. Sunshine is a good thing, but there are 
times when a negotiation like this on a trade agreement is just common 
sense. You are not going to want the other countries that you are 
competing against to see what kind of a deal you are fixing to work out 
with the United States.

[[Page H3745]]

  The Members of Congress can see it, of course, as we should, and the 
agreement itself must be available to the public to view 90 days before 
the President can even sign the agreement, and the Congress is going to 
have this debate. In fact, I understand that this trade promotion 
authority agreement that is under discussion, the new law that Congress 
is proposing, would for the first time give either House of Congress a 
veto over the agreement with a majority vote. So the House could decide 
on our own to veto a particular trade agreement by majority vote; the 
Senate could veto a trade agreement by majority vote.

  The only part of the deal so far that is confidential is the ongoing 
negotiation, which is exactly the way you handled and protected your 
client's best interest as an attorney. I am quite confident as an 
attorney you handled your client's litigation in a way that was 
professional and confidential, and I imagine you never disclosed a 
pending settlement agreement that was being negotiated, you never 
released that publicly, did you ever, Mr. Grayson?
  Mr. GRAYSON. Is the gentleman yielding to me?
  Mr. CULBERSON. Did you ever release a negotiated settlement agreement 
to the public before it was finalized?
  Mr. GRAYSON. Is the gentleman yielding to me?
  Mr. CULBERSON. No. Answer my question, yes or no.
  Mr. GRAYSON. Well, I can't answer your question unless you are going 
to yield to me.
  Mr. CULBERSON. That is why I am asking a question. I am asking you, 
did you ever release the terms of a settlement agreement you were 
negotiating before it was final?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Texas controls the time.
  Mr. CULBERSON. Yes. And I am asking a question.
  I was an attorney myself. I defended businesses in civil litigation, 
and any settlement agreement that we worked on was done confidentially. 
And I would ask Mr. Grayson, did you ever disclose a confidential 
settlement negotiation publicly when you were negotiating on behalf of 
your client?
  Mr. GRAYSON. Is the gentleman yielding the balance of his time to me?
  Mr. CULBERSON. No, I am not yielding the balance of my time. I am 
just asking a question.
  I am quite confident Mr. Grayson always kept those negotiations 
secret. That is all that is being kept secret here. And it is actually 
not secret because Members of Congress can go read the text of the 
trade agreement that is being negotiated. And if any of us have any 
sort of an objection, that is a good time to raise it, to tell the 
Trade Representative that we think this or that provision is going to 
either be in violation of Federal law or cause a problem for American 
industry and we think you ought to drop it.
  So you have actually got an opportunity to have your 2 cents' worth 
heard during the course of the negotiation. So I would urge Members to 
oppose Mr. Grayson's amendment for the same reason that Mr. Grayson 
always kept his settlement negotiations confidential on behalf of his 
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Florida has 15 seconds 
remaining. The gentleman from Texas has 30 seconds remaining.
  Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent for another minute 
beyond my 15 seconds.
  Mr. CULBERSON. I object. We are limited to 5 minutes and it is 12:30 
at night.
  The Acting CHAIR. There is an objection. The gentleman has 15 
  Mr. GRAYSON. First of all, I represent the American public here, not 
the American private. When I was an attorney, I represented private 
interest, just as you did. Now I represent the public. The reason we 
refer to the American public as the public is because the public's 
business needs to be public. That means no secret negotiations, no 
secret acts, no secret agreements, nothing but the public interest in 
  The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Chairman, I think Mr. Grayson's answer confirms 
that he did not ever disclose a negotiated settlement before it was 
final, and that is just common sense. And here, under trade promotion 
authority, the trade agreement, as it is being negotiated, needs to be 
kept confidential. But any Member of Congress can go in and see it and 
have our voices heard, object, suggest changes to it, as it is being 
negotiated. And then once it is finalized the text must be made 
available to the public 90 days before the President signs the 
agreement, and then either House of Congress can void the agreement by 
a majority vote. We are going to have this debate, and I urge Members 
to oppose this amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Grayson).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Florida will 
be postponed.