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March 21, 2008

Whack-a-mole on the wheel-and-deal

Wow. This week, I'm happy to be a blogger-researcher and not a lobbyist. Today's Inside U.S. Trade talked about the high level of wheeling and dealing that is being talked up in the halls of Congress on the trade deal with unionist murder capital Colombia. Apparently, some Democrats

"believe now they they can extract significant concessions from the White House for passing the FTA. A Democratic lobbyist said these members have made it clear the concession has to be “enormous” to offset the negative fallout from passing the Colombia FTA, and the lobbyist said their demands have been further prompted by President Bush’s rejection of programs that were a priority for Democrats, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) bill."

Sources are suggesting that TAA is not enough to cut a deal, and that it looks like Bush doesn't support the better TAA bills anyway. According to Congress Now:

Moleinside_zoom3_2 "I don't think dealing with the dislocation that comes from trade gets you one additional vote for a trade deal that is flawed," said Bill Samuel, legislative director for the AFL-CIO, a fierce opponent of free trade agreements. "The problem with Colombia - overlay the economic concerns with the human rights issue, the murders, the death squads, the lack of prosecutions. TAA doesn't address any of that."

Unfortunately, Baucus and Grassley are reportedly watering down their TAA proposals as we speak, so that service workers are not covered. Other Dems are wheeling and dealing, but shooting a little higher. From IUT:

According to [a Democratic] aide, a more reasonable trade-off for the Colombia FTA could involve a second economic stimulus package focusing on the middle class, mortgage relief for home owners threatened by foreclosure due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, increased federal funding for education and the passage of an SCHIP bill... [but] union sources also said they have been assured by the speaker’s staff that no deal is being struck that would allow the FTA to come forward.

While all this air time is getting sucked up by the Colombia FTA - a policy not yet in place - the negative impact of current policy realities like our China trade deficit is not being addressed. But that doesn't mean fair traders aren't having to play whack-a-mole on these other issues as well. According to IUT, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council Executive Director Bob Baugh "ruled out that administration action on China would make the House leadership more inclined to let the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement come up for a vote. “We had assurances from leadership that trying to make linkages [to advance the Colombia FTA] is a false start,” he said."

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