- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2002

The House narrowly passed a bill yesterday morning that would grant the president broad powers to negotiate international trade agreements, a measure President Bush has called vital to restoring U.S. trade supremacy and boosting U.S. businesses and the economy.
The bill, which would let the president strike trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change, was passed by a 215-212 vote. It was opposed by all but 25 House Democrats and supported by all but 27 House Republicans.
Mr. Bush, who was in Washington yesterday, was elated by the victory, and he played what he called a victory round of golf at Andrews Air Force Base with three House Republicans he credited with helping get the trade bill passed. Joining the president were Reps. Tom DeLay of Texas, Michael G. Oxley of Ohio Dan Burton of Indiana.
"We're celebrating a victory in the House. I'm playing golf with key House members who helped convince their fellow members that trade is good for the economy and for the working people," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. DeLay, the House majority whip, called the vote a "vote for American leadership, American workers and American families.
"We simply cannot afford to sit on the sidelines any longer as the rest of the world continues striking trade agreements that exclude the United States," he said in a statement. "By giving the president the authority to negotiate fair trading rules, we are promoting open trade and expanding markets for American products."
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, criticized the measure harshly.
"To ensure improved living standards at home and abroad, trade policy needs to enhance human rights, reaffirm workers' rights and promote environmental protection," he said. "This legislation fails on all counts."
The Senate is scheduled take up the trade measure this week, before its monthlong summer recess starts Friday.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush, both in a written statement and his weekly radio address, urged the Senate to pass the trade-promotion authority bill before it adjourns for its August recess.
"The House has shown a commitment to getting something done on behalf of the American people, and I urge the Senate to vote on this good bill before the Senate goes home," the president said in the statement.
In his radio address, Mr. Bush said trade-promotion authority, which the presidency lost in 1994, "will give me a strong hand in negotiating foreign trade agreements.
"Trade agreements create good jobs and economic growth because they open new markets to America's farmers and ranchers and manufacturers. I urge the Senate to get a final bill on my desk so I can immediately take action that will create jobs and strengthen the economy," he said.
Every president from 1974 to 1994 had "fast-track" authority, but President Clinton failed in two attempts to get Congress to extend it.
Getting such authority has been a priority for Mr. Bush and the business community, reeling from financial scandals and stock market drops. House passage came 11 hours after Mr. Bush went to Capitol Hill to appeal personally to House Republicans.
Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, interviewed on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields," which aired yesterday, identified two further economic steps he believes Congress should take.
"What Congress can do is make tax cuts permanent, They can send the president a passed terrorism insurance bill. They can pass trade-promotion authority and send that to the president," he said.
While there was strong opposition among House Democrats, the leader of the Democrat-led Senate praised the conference agreement reached by Rep. Bill Thomas, California Republican and the bill's principal sponsor, and Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, called the House-passed conference measure a "very strong bill for workers affected adversely by trade."
The Senate, which traditionally supports free-trade legislation, passed an earlier version of the trade bill in May, by 66 to 30. The House passed its own version in December, in a 215-214 vote.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, expressed fear that Senate opponents of the trade bill will employ a "multitude of delaying tactics to slow it down or even kill the legislation."
"We can't let that happen," he said in a statement.
He urged Mr. Daschle, whom he described as a "strong supporter" of the bill, to work with him to get it passed this week.
Amy Fagan contributed to this report.


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