Trade Agreement Implementation: Expedited Procedures and Congressional Control in Existing Law [November 26, 2001] [open pdf - 163KB]
"Expedited procedures for trade agreements were established by Section 151 of the Trade Act of 1974, and took their current form with the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (OTCA 1988). These statutory expedited procedures act as procedural rules of each chamber governing consideration of bills to implement certain trade agreements. They are designed to insure that (1) Congress will take up the implementing bill and reach a final disposition within specified time limits, and (2) the bill will not be subject to amendment. These procedural restrictions are designed to assure the President, and other countries involved in trade negotiations, that Congress will consider or implement a covered trade agreement only as a package, in the form negotiated. Affording this assurance requires limiting the usual discretion of Congress over the enactment and contents of laws. In exchange for accepting these limits on its discretion, Congress has (1) enacted restrictions on the circumstances in which they apply, and (2) retained to itself, or provided itself with, means of enforcing these restrictions. [...] Congress could enforce the other limitations on the eligibility of trade agreements for expedited consideration by using the constitutional authority of each house to make its own rules. First, in principle, the chair might rule that an implementing bill did not meet the statutory requirements for expedited consideration. Second, each house has procedural means for either altering the procedures applicable to any implementing bill, or considering an alternative measure instead. Finally, either house could at any time permanently amend the statutory expedited procedures, just as with any other procedural rules. These capacities afford Congress the ultimate ability to recover its full legislative discretion over the implementation of any trade agreement."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31192
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