- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2000

Top administration officials and a senior Republican said yesterday they believe the House will approve a controversial trade pact with China when it votes Wednesday, but conceded they do not yet have a majority of the votes locked up.
"We're doing really well," House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas told Fox News yesterday. "We're moving toward that magic number of 218 votes [in the 435-member House] and I think, in the end, we'll be able to pass it."
Administration officials were slightly less sanguine, predicting that supporters of the China trade deal face three days of hard work to win over a critical number of the roughly 20 undecided members.
"We don't have the 218 to pass it, and the opposition [does] not have 218 at this point to stop it," Commerce Secretary William M. Daley told CBS' "Face the Nation."
A leading opponent of the China trade deal, Rep. David E. Bonior, concurred with Mr. Daley's assessment. "Nobody has the votes right now," the Michigan Democrat told "Late Edition" on CNN. "It's very close."
The House will vote Wednesday on whether to extend China permanent access to the U.S. market on terms most other countries enjoy, a status known as normal trade relations (NTR). The president currently must renew this status on an annual basis, and Congress has never used its statutory authority to override his decision.
Passage in the House, which is bitterly opposed by labor unions and several other groups, would ease the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization under the terms of a landmark trade agreement the United States and China negotiated last year.
Passage is virtually assured in the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on the measure in early June.
President Clinton on Friday abruptly canceled a much-anticipated address to the nation on the China trade deal that had been scheduled for last night. Pro-NTR Democrats in the House had advised Mr. Clinton that the address would not have been helpful in swaying undecided members.
"[Mr. Clinton] feels that he is making progress doing the one-on-one conversations" with undecided members, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said on CNN on Saturday.
A leading pro-NTR Republican expressed disappointment that Mr. Clinton pulled the speech. Rep. David Dreier, California Republican, implied that it looked like an attempt to deflect attention from the bitter split within the Democratic Party on the issue. Two-thirds of House Democrats will likely vote against the bill, largely as a result of the opposition of organized labor, a key Democratic constituency.
"The president was wrong in canceling this address," Mr. Dreier said. "[It] looks like a politicization of the issue."
Despite canceling the address, Mr. Clinton did continue his push for the China trade deal in a speech to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council in Hyde Park, N.Y.
The White House also got a boost from Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who said Saturday that membership in the WTO would promote China's integration into the wider world and develop greater respect for human rights.
"Joining the [WTO], I think, is one way [for China] to change in the right direction," he told Reuters in Denmark.
Opponents of permanent NTR for China, a patchwork of labor unions, human rights activists, environmentalists and veterans groups, spent the weekend generating calls, letters and e-mail messages to undecided members.
"We are running a weekend-long grass-roots campaign in the districts of undecided members to make sure that every autoworker, every human rights activist and every veteran at the American Legion hall knows their representative is still undecided," said Scott Nova, director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, an anti-NTR group.
Mr. Nova said labor was focusing on Democrats, while veterans were aiming their message primarily at Republicans.
Also yesterday, a senior official from the AFL-CIO hinted that organized labor might reduce its backing for Democrats who support permanent NTR for China, but stopped short of threatening members with reprisals in this election year.
"This is a very, very serious issue with our membership, and I don't think anybody can tell you right now [what] is the political fallout from it," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Business groups did their part to keep up the pressure on undecided members with activities in up to 20 districts this weekend, according to Chris Padilla of the Business Coalition for U.S.-China Trade. They also saturated the airwaves with advertisements in favor of permanent NTR for China during the Sunday political talk shows. The ads include a toll-free number voters can use to contact their representatives in support of NTR.
House members told industry lobbyists late last week that these efforts have helped to counter the hundreds of thousands of communications that labor unions, which traditionally dominate political battles at the grass roots, have generated over the past three months.

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