Saturday, July 30, 2005

''How A Bad Bill Becomes Law in the 109th Congress''

"House Republican leaders held the vote on CAFTA open for more than an hour on Wednesday night, twisting arms to eek out a victory by two votes. Jay joined 186 House Democrats and 25 House Republicans in opposing the bill, primarily due to the poor precedent it sets for worker and environmental protections.

So how does one pass a trade agreement that is deeply unpopular across the country, in red states as well as blue? I can sum it up in two words: pants pockets.

In an effort to win the votes of hesitant Republicans, the Bush Administration employed a series of "side deals" designed to provide reluctant party members with political cover. These deals, in theory, address specific concerns of lawmakers in districts likely to be hurt by CAFTA.

One example: U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman offered a deal in which Central American manufacturers of pants would have to purchase pockets from the US to get the full tariff reduction. This was meant to ease the pain in textile producing states like South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

A similar deal was cut on sugar. The Administration assured lawmakers in sugar producing districts that they would cushion the blow of the agreement by doing things like paying Central American farmers to not export their sugar to America.

It's not clear if these deals will hold up -- in fact, a Public Citizen study of side deals on trade agreements found that from NAFTA on, only 16 out of 90 such agreements were honored.
Of course, there's always good old fashioned pork. To secure the vote of Missouri Senator Christopher Bond, the Administration agreed to support a $2.5 billion project to build a series of dams and locks on the Mississippi River. While I haven't yet heard reports of such blatant vote-buying in the House, I won't be surprised if they surface. Unfortunately, the tactic worked, and as a result, Congress passed a bad trade agreement."-from an email today from Jay Inslee. Thanks to Chris McCullough for passing it along. Jay's website posts his op ed in the Seattle Times about his opposition to the CAFTA agreememt.

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