The wires and industry publications were alight following yesterday afternoon's Democratic Caucus meeting, which was called by the House Trade Working Group to express their outrage that some Democrats are considering supporting Bush's NAFTA expansion to Peru.
If the Peru bill passes, Democrats face the real possibility that NAFTA expansion will be one of the few pieces of legislation (on any issue) that actually makes it through both chambers that is not watered down in the process and is signed into law during their control of Congress. This after losing control of Congress after supporting NAFTA in 1993-94, after 90% of the party voted against the virtually identical CAFTA in 2005, after taking control of Congress on a fair trade platform in 2006, having gotten not too much progressive legislation actually signed into law in 2007, and heading into a recession in 2008. Karl Rove's smile is surely lighting up some dark corner of Texas.
Among the highlights:
- After opposing 95% identical CAFTA, Pelosi defends NAFTA-CAFTA expansion to Peru. From Congress Daily PM: "House Speaker Pelosi defended her support of the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement to a restive Democratic Caucus Wednesday, as the trade deal looks more and more likely to be on the House floor in October... Pelosi told the caucus she had proved her "bona fides" on trade through past opposition to trade agreements, and said the Peru deal was a case where Democrats need to "take yes for an answer," according to one participant... New Democrat Coalition Chair Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., said the group will whip their members to support the deal, but said it has not been determined whether the coalition will formally score the vote. That might be decided at the group's weekly meeting today, she said. Michaud said he and other opponents will build opposition, including through reaching out to Republicans."
- We get wheeling and dealing on a program that benefits very few Americans. Washington Trade Daily: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) 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). The speaker told Democrats yesterday she will bring legislation expanding TAA to the floor before voting on the US-Peru free trade agreement - or any other trade deals, a Democratic aide told WTD. The announcement came at a closed-door meeting of the Democratic Caucus on the Peru FTA. At that meeting, a number of members spoke out - âoften in passionate languageâ - according to one aide, including free-trade critics Reps. Phil Hare (Ill), Mary Kaptur (Ohio), Michael Michaud (Maine), Linda Sanchez (Calif) and Brad Sherman (Calif)."
- We have some very surprising reversals. The Hill reports that 93% fair trade vote record Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) is supporting Bush's Peru NAFTA expansion: ""I think I've voted for one trade deal since I've been here," said Pascrell, a six-term lawmaker who joined Ways and Means this year. At the time, Pascrell's appointment raised eyebrows from some in the business community since Pascrell is seen as a reliable vote against trade deals, not for them. "Some of my friends say: 'What did you do when you got on Ways and Means? Did you drink the Kool-Aid?" quipped Pascrell... Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.), one of 41 Democratic freshmen who called for a shift in trade policy, has said trade was critical to Democrats regaining their House majority earlier this year."
- And a healthy dose of courage from freshmen members. Congressional Quarterly writes: "Trade opponents in the caucus, however, say that while the new standards represent improvement, the agreement remains flawed. They contend that the Bush administration cannot be trusted to enforce the new standards and that Democratic leaders are pushing the pacts too quickly. In a recent conference call, Trade Working Group member Phil Hare, D-Ill., said Democrats should postpone action on pending agreements until a new president takes office. Domestic politics exert a strong influence on opponents, many of whom say constituents voted for them to change U.S. trade policy. "I ran on this issue,' Hare said Wednesday, âand I canât run away from it.'"