I am heading out of town for a week or so for Passover, but here's one last post before I go. Our friends from Human Rights Watch have an excellent post over at the Hill:
Congress is right to delay consideration of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). What’s at stake here is a fundamental principle: that free trade should be premised on respect for human rights, especially the rights of the workers producing the goods to be traded.
Colombian workers cannot exercise their rights without fear of being killed. Just in the first three months of this year, 17 Colombian trade unionists have been assassinated—a substantial increase over the 10 killed in the same period last year.
Pelosi, however, is the first Speaker in the history of the 34-year-old statute to ask the Rules Committee (with House approval) to suspend the expedited timetable for consideration. The House handily endorsed her gambit Thursday, 224-195.
Just as it is unlikely that Congress will grant Bush his requested renewal of fast-track negotiating authority so late in his term, it is even more difficult to imagine a Democratic president even asking for it... It is also highly unlikely that the next Congress, which is likely to contain an even larger Democratic majority in both chambers, will grant whomever is president such authority. All this poses a new challenge to both branches of how to reconfigure our trade relations and processes over the next four to eight years...
Democrats broke more than three decades of precedent by changing trade rules to suspend consideration of the deal. But they also displayed a procedural acumen that was less evident during their first, sometimes bumpy, year in power...
McGovern and other Democrats on the Rules Committee began discussing the possibility of stripping the time requirements from trade rules as early as January, members and aides said.
Those conversations were hypothetical, however, until the White House began to make noise about sending the Colombia agreement to Capitol Hill before Pelosi signed off on it. That prompted McGovern and Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-N.Y.) to call for a meeting with the speaker.
Slaughter and McGovern oppose the trade deal for different reasons. The Massachusetts Democrat believes Colombia has not gone far enough to rectify its history of violence toward labor leaders.
Slaughter, meanwhile, opposes the measure because she believes it would deal another blow to her upstate New York district, which already suffers from the steady export of jobs.
Both opposed any maneuvering by Bush to force a vote, and both believed that stripping the time requirements was the best way to stop the president in his tracks.
And we got some feedback on a post from earlier this week on Fast Track, and just wanted to point out that Pelosi's action to cancel Fast Track virtually guarantees that the Senate will also not take action.