Oct. 9, 2001
Unprecedented Partisan Committee Split on Thomas Fast Track Bill Signals the Bill s Dim Floor Prospects
With GOP Members Outnumbering Democrats by Seven, Committee Passage Was Inevitable, But No Past Fast Track Bill Ever Received
So Many “No” Votes in Trade Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. Today s unprecedented “no” votes by all but two committee Democrats on a Fast Track bill revealed the boiling partisan anger that has built over Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas push to exploit the Sept. 11 attacks to revive the controversial trade proposal, which has been stalled from lack of support in Congress, Public Citizen said today.
“Charges of political profiteering have fostered downright outrage as members are being forced to shift their attention away from the emergency needs of millions of Americans who have suddenly lost their livelihoods and from creating the polices needed to safeguard the nation from further attacks,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen s Global Trade Watch. “Anger about the process only has been exacerbated by the substance of Thomas bill, which is viewed as a slap in the face to Democrats because it rolls back labor language that was in all past Fast Track bills and undercuts standards on environment and labor included in a recent pact with Jordan.”
As Democratic opposition to the Thomas bill grows, a significant number of GOP House members have maintained their long-standing opposition to Fast Track. GOP House members from regions where floods of imports of steel, textiles and farm commodities have caused widespread economic hardship are unwilling to support Fast Track.
“That the ranking Democrat and every single Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, except the two who supported the original Crane Fast Track bill, voted against a Fast Track proposal is remarkable,” Wallach said. “When you add up the new Democratic opponents to the Thomas Fast Track bill and the longstanding Republican opponents, it becomes clear that a significant majority in Congress oppose Fast Track.”
Thomas markup is the last card he can play in his campaign to push Fast Track.
“The White House and the Speaker know the rancor in the committee is a preview of coming attractions for the broad, destructive fallout that certainly would result if Fast Track went to the House floor,” Wallach said. “If the GOP leadership seeks to maintain the bipartisan climate necessary to deal with responses to the Sept. 11 attack and to get the spending bills done, then Fast Track is toast, because this was the least bipartisan and most nasty, rancorous vote on a trade bill I have seen in a decade.”