So CAFTA passes…
The Bush administration is getting really, really good at using William Riker’s “minimum winning coalition” theory of passing trade bills. Here’s the Washington Post story by Paul Blustein and Mike Allen: The House narrowly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement this morning, delivering a hard-fought victory to President Bush while underscoring the nation’s deep ...
The Bush administration is getting really, really good at using William Riker's "minimum winning coalition" theory of passing trade bills. Here's the Washington Post story by Paul Blustein and Mike Allen:
The Bush administration is getting really, really good at using William Riker’s “minimum winning coalition” theory of passing trade bills. Here’s the Washington Post story by Paul Blustein and Mike Allen:
The House narrowly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement this morning, delivering a hard-fought victory to President Bush while underscoring the nation’s deep divisions over trade. The 217 to 215 vote came just after midnight, in a dramatic finish that highlighted the intensity brought by both sides to the battle. When the usual 15-minute voting period expired at 11:17 p.m., the no votes outnumbered the yes votes by 180 to 175, with dozens of members undeclared. House Republican leaders kept the voting open for another 47 minutes, furiously rounding up holdouts in their own party until they had secured just enough to ensure approval. The House vote was effectively the last hurdle — and by far the steepest — facing CAFTA, which will tear down barriers to trade and investment between the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. “This win sends a powerful signal to the region and the world that the United States will continue to lead in opening markets and leveling the playing field,” said Rob Portman, the U.S. trade representative, in a statement issued immediately after the vote. Although the deal was approved by the Senate last month, it was overwhelmingly opposed by House Democrats who contend that it is wrong to strike a free-trade pact with poor countries lacking strong protection for worker rights. Only 15 of the 202 House Democrats backed the accord, while 27 out of 232 Republicans voted against…. Before the vote, GOP leaders, who had negotiated deals in recent days to sway Republicans, made it clear they were prepared to twist arms. “It will be a tough vote, but we will pass CAFTA tonight,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) told reporters yesterday morning. “And we will do it with very few Democrats on board.” Underscoring the importance that Bush attaches to the pact, he put his prestige on the line by making a rare appearance with Vice President Cheney at the weekly closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference. Bush spoke for an hour, lawmakers said, stressing the national security implications of CAFTA, which are rooted in the concern that growing anti-American sentiment in Latin America would flourish if the United States refused to open its markets wider to the nations that negotiated the pact. “Mothers and fathers in El Salvador love their children as much as we love our children here,” Bush said, stressing the need to look out for the young democracies in “our neighborhood,” according to lawmakers. He also noted that four of the six countries — the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua — have assisted the U.S. military effort in Iraq. The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess. (emphasis added)
As that bolded portion suggests, whether using Riker’s theory is good for public policy is another question entirely. As I said before, I supprted CAFTA’s passage, and I’m glad to see President Bush used some of those reasons to get it through. But I confess I can’t muster a great deal of enthusiasm about this passage, except in so far as it preserves the possibility of achieving the Doha round. Oh, and since the Bush administration won’t do it, let me take the opportunity to thank the fifteen Democrats who voted for the bill — without whom, I suspect, CAFTA would have gone down. You’re a shrinking breed. One interesting question for the future will be how the defections from the AFL-CIO will affect the lobbying power of unions on trade-related issues. I suspect that their trade policy shop is going to get seriously dented by this change. [But Nathan Newman says that competition among unions for organizing will be good for the labor movement!–ed. Check out Robert Fitch’s take in Slate and see if Newman’s optimism is still well-placed.] UPDATE: Well, it looks like the Bushies aren’t the only ones playing hardball:
From Roll Call: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), angry that some of her own betrayed the party on a key trade vote, called a last-minute, Members-only meeting tonight to review the early-morning balloting and the reasoning behind defectors’ votes. “Pelosi called for the special session of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee at a private whip meeting this morning, during which she said she ‘had a sleepless night’ over the Central American Free Trade Agreement vote that narrowly passed early in the morning. Sources in the room said Pelosi was furious at the outcome and the votes of some of the 15 Democrats – notably some in safe districts – who joined the Republicans to pass the bill.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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