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September 28, 2007

Death Clock Begins

Last night, President Bush formally transmitted the NAFTA expansion to Peru implementing legislation, setting the Death Clock in motion. Under Fast Track, Congress can't amend the legislation, and not even Pelosi or Rangel control the floor. Per Fast Track guru Hal Shapiro:

  • "Following transmittal by the President of a proposed agreement, its implementing bill, and required supporting materials, the implementing bill... must be introduced in both Houses by the respective majority leaders on behalf of themselves and the minority leaders."
  • "Following introduction of the implementing bill, it is to be referred, by the Presiding Officer in each House of Congress, to... the Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee... and possibly others."
  • "No amendments in the implementing bill are permitted... in the House of Representatives or the Senate. This limitation applies to committee consideration and in connection with a vote by either full chamber."
  • "Automatic Discharge. Committees may not consider the bill for more than 45 legislative days... after it is first introduced. If the implementing bill is not reported out of the committees to which it was referred within that time frame, those committees are automatically discharged and the bill is placed on the appropriate calendar."
  • "Floor debate is limited in each House of Congress to 20 hours."
  • "A vote on ultimate passage of the bill must occur in the House of Representatives and the Senate within 15 legislative days of the bill being reported out of the relevant committees or the automatic discharge of those committees. Thus, the maximum period for congressional consideration of a fast-track implementing bill is 60 legislative days, bu, of course, a final vote could occur in less time."
  • "No Conference Committee."

But there's just a teeny weeny pwoblem. At Wednesday's caucus meeting, as we reported yesterday, Pelosi "has promised Democrats reluctant to vote for a free trade agreement with Peru that they will first have the opportunity to approve an expanded trade adjustment assistance program for US workers who lose their jobs because of trade (WTD, 9/26/07)." But, as Inside U.S. Trade reported today, there's no such bill.

"It is unclear how quickly a TAA bill can advance. Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) said this week he hoped to circulate a draft to members next week in order to promote discussion. The House approved a short-term extension of TAA on Sept. 25, five days before the program’s expiration and a week after the Ways and Means Committee approved it."

There is no reason that Bush had to drop the implementing legislation last night, AFTER it was reported that Pelosi wanted to go FIRST with trade adjustment assistance, which hasn't even been prepared yet. Whadda yinz think? Is Bush reminding pro-Deathstar Democrats whose NAFTA expansion this really is?

In any case, as we've reported many times, there shouldn't be any deal-making around TAA. First of all, it's cruel to deny assistance to the few workers who are able to qualify (a small minority of all trade-displaced workers). This should be done regardless of any other legislation. Then there's the issue that the biggest negative economic impact of our trade legislation is on the REST of the labor force - the ones that don't lose their jobs but see their wages stagnate as a result.

Finally, there's the perils of the deal-making process itself . Members should really stick to principle on this one, not only because it's the right thing to do politically and policy-wise for Peru and the American people, but also because 90% of promises made for votes on trade pacts do not work out as planned.

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