Monday, July 11, 2005
Update on CAFTA
National Journal's CongressDailyAM
Issue date: Monday, July 11, 2005
TRADE: With the Central America Free Trade Agreement on schedule for a vote this month in the House, Republican and Democratic leaders return from the Independence Day recess to make last-ditch efforts for or against the trade deal.
House Majority Whip Blunt and Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., will host a meeting with outside groups Wednesday morning in the Capitol on CAFTA.
While a majority vote is far from assured, GOP leadership aides said last week that floor action is tentatively scheduled for the week of July 18.
The Ways and Means Committee approved CAFTA June 30, but has not filed the committee report -- a procedural move that would trigger floor action within 15 legislative days.
On the opposition front, Democrats are again coordinating with a coalition of Central American legislators and Roman Catholic bishops who will arrive in Washington Tuesday to lobby against the trade agreement.
A Democratic aide said Friday their whip operation will continue to prevent as many Democratic "yes" votes as possible when CAFTA comes to the floor.
Wall Street Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Democrats and Cafta
Sen. Clinton is among those abandoning her husband's proudest legacy.
Saturday, July 9, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Central American Free Trade Agreement passed the Senate last week, as everyone expected, but the more interesting news is who voted against it. Hint: This isn't Bill Clinton's Democratic Party anymore.
Nafta was one of the former President's signature achievements, and free trade one of the issues he used to define himself as a New Democrat. But last week only 10 Senate Democrats found the nerve to support Cafta, as opposed to 27 who voted for Nafta in 1993. Support among House Democrats looks even worse, with 10 or fewer expected to support Cafta when it comes up for a vote this summer, compared with 102 who backed Nafta.
Just as startling is which Senators voted against free trade with our southern neighbors. They include Joe Biden, who is often lauded as a statesman-internationalist; Chris Dodd, the self-avowed friend of Latin American democracy; Evan Bayh, the alleged heir to the New Democrat mantle; Jon Corzine, who made a fortune from free global capital markets at Goldman Sachs; and John Kerry, who lost last year's election in part because voters suspected he wasn't what he claimed to be (e.g., a free trader).
The biggest surprise, at least to us, is the no cast by New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. We'd have thought that a modest trade-opening deal with a few poor countries was an ideal chance to continue her march to moderation and demonstrate to business that she'd follow in the path of her husband as she seeks the White House in 2008. Apparently not.
Why this protectionist turn by Democrats? Opponents claim that this deal is somehow worse on labor and environmental protections than Nafta and other bilateral trade accords, but in fact any differences are nominal. If anything, the Bush administration has made too many protectionist concessions to U.S. sugar growers, among others, in an attempt to appease Democratic concerns.
A more honest explanation may be pure partisanship, as Democrats hope to deny President Bush a legislative victory. But this is still troubling, since trade has long been more of a regional than partisan issue. Mr. Clinton would never have passed Nafta through a Democratic Congress without the support of 34 Republicans in the Senate and 132 in the House.
Perhaps Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and the rest are all eyeing each other as they maneuver for 2008 and want to make sure no one can get to their left with Big Labor. Or perhaps they all believe they have no choice but to march to the orders of MoveOn.org, the Daily Kos and other liberals who are threatening primary challenges for any Democrat who supports Mr. Bush on anything. The latter theory is supported by Ron Brownstein's article in the latest National Journal about the rise of this Bush-hating, but rich and mobilized, Internet-based left.
Whatever the explanation, this Democratic turn against free trade is bad for the country. The U.S. hasn't had a protectionist President since Herbert Hoover, and we all remember how that turned out.