By Don Cattell
After the Senate's 66-30 vote for Fast Track on May 24, House and Senate negotiators must agree upon a final version of the controversial free trade legislation. And that's where the White House will weigh in with its views, getting together won't be easy, which opens the door for more labor Lobbying.
As President George W. Bush wanted, the House by 215-214 last December--approved Fast Track without any conditions.
This bill, as it exist freezes workers rights out of trade treaties. The Senate bill doesn't write worker rights into the treaties either, encouraging companies to move to third world countries, causing the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs and destroying the industrial base in this country. It does include one condition Bush can't stand: If a trade treaty overrides a section of U.S. trade law especially anti-dumping laws--there would be a separate vote on that. Labor backed that condition, authored by Senators. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho), and it passed by a 61-38 margin. Thirty eight votes would uphold a Bush veto of the trade package which he threatens if the condition stays in.
Traditionally, negotiators on major legislation come from committees that handled it: The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, in this case. Ways and Means, with a 24-17 GOP edge, is a lost cause.
Targeting the Senate to stand fast for its section that mandates separate votes on treaty provisions that override U.S. trade laws. The Senate approved two other pro-worker provisions-more aid for workers who lose their jobs to imports, and a worker impact statement on trade treaties.
Targeting the House to reverse its vote and kill the whole thing may be the best bet given the one-vote margin last December. That's what the Autoworkers, an out Front campaigner against Fast Track, think.
"The White House and the GOP engaged in furious last-minute arm twisting" to win that one-vote victory, its legislative alert says. "As a result, we have an excellent chance to defeat Fast Track when it comes hack to the House for a second vote. To prevail, we need to hold those representatives who voted against fast track the first time around and make sure they will still vote against it" when it comes up closer to the election.
"In addition, we need to convince a handful ... who supported Fast Track last year to switch sides and vote against Fast Track the second time around. The message is simple: Urge them to vote against the conference report on Fast Track." The following is a list of congressmen from Michigan that voted for Fast Track. I encourage you to call them and express your concerns regarding Fast Track!
Mike Rogers (202) 225-4872 mikerogers@ mail.house.gov