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Free-Trade Issues Emerge as Candidate Dividers in Florida Senate Race

April 28, 2015 - 6:00pm

When U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., breaks with President Barack Obama, he usually goes to the middle on issues like supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline or calling for delaying parts of Obamas federal health-care law. But, with liberals looking for other U.S. Senate candidates in 2016, Murphy broke with Obama this week and moved to the left, opposing giving the White House "fast track" on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Murphy is currently running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Rubio has said he wont run for a second Senate term.

Earlier this week, Murphy told the Palm Beach Posthe opposed giving the president fast track authority to make trade deals.

The Constitution grants Congress the authority to regulate trade, and it greatly concerns me that we are being asked to establish a framework for a deal that is almost done, Murphy told the Palm Beach Post. Further, I have consistently said that I would oppose any trade deal that fails Florida jobs, labor standards, or the environment, and with limited amendments and debate, I cannot support granting this authority. Florida workers and businesses can compete and win against any foreign competition when we have fair trade deals that create a level playing field and hold our foreign competitors accountable.

Since starting his Senate bid at the end of last month, Murphy has drawn fire from the left for not being liberal enough. The Democratic Progressive Caucus has been urging U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., to challenge Murphy in the primary. Grayson has been an opponent of TPA and TPP, calling them trade treachery.

Last week, Susan Smith, the president of the caucus, came out swinging against TPA and TPP. Smith said point blank that Democrats should not support candidates who back TPA and TPP in 2016.

"The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida stands resolutely against the Trade Promotion Authority approved by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee which is designed to clear the path for the top-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership, Smith said. "The TPP would silence the voice of the people on a huge range of public policy issues from financial services to the environment to food safety, allow big drug companies to restrict access to cheaper generic drugs and ban made in America laws that encourage local governments to buy American products.

"Our democracy is built on a government of the people, for the people and by the people, but this agreement tips the scales of power away from the people and toward big corporations. If TPP becomes law, unaccountable CEOs will have the power to dictate the terms of our economy without government oversight or regulation," Smith added. "A good trade deal should put workers first, improve environmental protections and create a level playing field between the people and corporations. The TPP will ship American jobs overseas, make our food more dangerous, leave our environment less protected and put life-saving prescription drugs out of reach for many. If workers in Florida are forced to compete for wages with workers in developing countries, Florida workers will lose. Congress should not approve a deal that puts corporate profits over working family and, as we look toward 2016, Democrats should not support anyone who votes for it."

In the meantime, another possible Senate candidate on the Republican side continues to showcase his support for TPP, TPA and free trade.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the U.S. House Trade Subcommittee, penned an op-ed in Tuesdays Tampa Bay Times praising the measure, insisting it will help the nation and boost Floridas economy.

One of the surest ways to grow our economy is by opening up foreign markets to American products. Nationally, more than 38 million American jobs are tied to trade, Buchanan wrote. Floridians know the importance of trade as it supports 2.4 million jobs in our state and over $100 billion in exports and imports annually.

Buchanan has left the door open to a Senate bid. Other possible Republican candidates include former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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