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November 26, 2007

On the political divan

Late November is the time of year when we try to digest the food we've been shoveling in our traps for days, and also try to make some sense of the goings-on of the year. But the Washington Post had a story that is not helping my physical and psychological recovery any. There's a lot of scary stuff in there about how politics happens in this town (together with Rahm's questionable dating advice), but there are some quotes of note within (my emphases):

So this spring the Democrats, in concert with union leaders such as Sweeney, crafted a long list of requirements for any trade deal with the administration. The list included requiring other nations to "adopt, maintain and enforce basic international labor standards in their domestic laws and practices" and to implement and enforce multilateral environmental agreements; ensuring that foreign investors do not enjoy greater investment protections than U.S. citizens; and providing guarantees of access to affordable prescription drugs...

"We were able, thank God, to take yes for an answer," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Sweeney was meeting with foreign labor leaders in Berlin when the deal was struck on May 10, but both Rangel and Pelosi called to inform him of the news. At about midnight Berlin time, Sweeney spoke to the speaker on the phone. "This is a historic agreement," he told her.

But moments later, as Pelosi walked into the Speaker's Dining Room to hold a news conference with Schwab and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., she found herself facing hostile Democrats. A handful of lawmakers opposed to the trade pact with Peru -- including several Democratic freshmen who had campaigned on the issue -- had squeezed themselves into the tiny room on the Capitol's first floor and stared stony-faced at the speaker.

"We're not against trade. We just want a trade system that works," said Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), a former labor lawyer who listened skeptically as the bipartisan group outlined its achievement.

Many of Sweeney's fellow union leaders delivered even harsher assessments of the new trade accord. Change to Win, the six-million member federation that now ranks as the AFL-CIO's main rival, issued a news release on May 25 saying that the agreement "does not represent the basis for the type of new U.S. trade policy that this nation desperately needs."

Even some leaders of the AFL-CIO's own affiliates rejected the agreement, saying they do not trust President Bush with the enforcement of its labor provisions...

It is a dilemma that leaves Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), a Ways and Means Committee member, wondering whether, in incorporating provisions on environmental and labor standards in the deal, his party has proven that it can deliver benefits to the working men and women who helped return it to power.

"Trade has to be sold as something that's good for us. This deal goes partway towards addressing that. Whether it goes all the way . . .," the congressman said, his voice trailing off.

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