- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Republican and Democratic backers of a bill that would allow President Bush to negotiate trade agreements scrambled yesterday to pull off a narrow victory in a House vote scheduled for today.
Rep. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican who has been a leader on trade issues, said the bill will garner up to 200 Republican votes, an unprecedented number for a trade vote.
The addition of a few Democrats should be enough to win approval, other members said.
Mr. Kolbe said Mr. Bush's personal attention to the issue, which included meetings with Republicans and Democrats today, has been decisive.
"The administration is finally quietly working Republicans very hard," Mr. Kolbe said.
Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, who has led Democratic opposition to the bill, stressed that his side still has the advantage in trying to kill a bill that was defeated in 1997 and 1998. "They don't have the votes," he said. "We're working very hard to make sure they don't."
The bill, known as "fast-track" negotiating authority, would let Mr. Bush negotiate trade deals and submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments.
Because a sizable group of Republicans is expected to vote against the trade bill, the White House needs at least a handful of Democrats to win in the House.
"We won't have as strong a Democratic vote as I'd like, but I think we can do it," said Rep. Cal Dooley, a California Democrat who is backing the measure. He predicted that roughly 20 Democrats would vote for fast-track, enough to win.
House Republican leaders yesterday offered concessions on a planned economic-stimulus package to persuade Democrats on the trade bill.
Rep. Bill Thomas of California, one of the chief Republican negotiators on the stimulus bill, outlined proposals to provide money and health insurance to workers, especially those who lost their jobs after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The House Republican leadership also wrote a letter calling for "not less than $20 billion" to be devoted to these Democratic priorities. An administration official, who asked not to be named, said the White House supports the concessions to help pass the trade bill.
Mr. Dooley said he believed the Republican concessions on the stimulus bill had unlocked Democratic votes for fast-track, and that a meeting between Mr. Bush and about a dozen Democrats had helped.
The competition for Democratic votes is tough, with a number of longtime free-traders working against the bill. One of them, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, conceded that Mr. Bush's work could help pass it.
"There is still a good possibility that Republicans will be whipped into shape," he said.
The president has been "working the phones heavily" to line up support, especially among Republicans, an administration official said.
Cabinet members, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, spent yesterday ironing out individual Republican complaints about U.S. trade policy on a range of issues, ranging from textiles to citrus fruits.
The Bush administration's move earlier this year to seek cutbacks in steel imports also appeared to be paying off.
"You will see a significant number of steel-state Republicans support this bill," said Rep. Phil English, Pennsylvania Republican.

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