This morning, Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Democrats will change their rules so as to be able to table the pending trade agreement with Colombia rather than bring it up for a vote within 90 days, as is currently required:
Today, I discussed with my caucus the prospect of a rule change that we will bring to the floor tomorrow.
It’s not really a rule change; it’s sort of in keeping with the rules of the House. And that rule will say that we will remove the timetable from the consideration of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Pelosi also said that if the agreement were voted on now, it would lose, a claim that I think is highly doubtful. In fact, Pelosi wants to protect Democrats from having to vote on an agreement that is pretty obviously in America’s interest, but has been vociferously denounced by her party’s Presidential candidates.
This morning, White House press secretary Dana Perino was asked about Pelosi’s announcement:
QUESTION: And on another subject, do you want to talk about Speaker Pelosi’s decision to put off a vote on the Colombia trade bill?
PERINO: Sure. I’m happy to have a chance to respond to that. Speaker Pelosi today did something unprecedented in the history of negotiating trade deals in announcing that Democrats would change the rules in the middle of the game. ***
Today’s announcement shows that any sense of good faith in our process of negotiating trade has evaporated.
We think this is an awful precedent. We think it’s a terrible thing for this administration, but it’s also terrible for all future administrations, both Republicans and Democrats, because countries will not be able to have faith in our word when we’re negotiating trade deals.
We worked tirelessly to work with members of Congress on this trade bill, and we did it according to the rules. We achieved a bipartisan agreement with Speaker Pelosi last May — May 10th, 2007 — to reopen trade agreements to address labor and environment standards that she was concerned about. Those concerns were addressed by us.
We held over 400 consultations with members of Congress. We provided draft implementing legislation in advance. We even shuttled members of Congress to see for themselves the progress in Colombia.
We went over and beyond the requirements of trade promotion authority to try to get this done.
Trade promotion authority also has requirements for Congress, and that is that at the end of a 90-day period — 90 legislative days — that there be a vote.
It is clear that there are many in the Democratic Party who would like to kill this deal. And they want to do so without having to have their fingerprints on it. And they want to do it in a way where they don’t have to take a vote.
Perino went on to say, in answer to a follow-up question:
They also don’t make the case that it would be bad for our workers. Because, right now, almost all of the products coming into our country from Colombia come in without tariffs. But that is not true for our products that we’re trying to sell to Colombia. And that’s all we’re trying to do with this Colombia free trade agreement.
I liked this exchange, too:
QUESTION: You sound a little angry. Is the White House…
PERINO: I think we’re pretty fired up about it. Look, I just — it is the right thing to do. The free trade agreement with Colombia is the right thing to do, and they know it. And that’s why they don’t want to have to take a vote on it because their special interests are pressuring them not to let this deal go through.
PERINO: The unions. The unions.
As usual, the Democrats have put politics ahead of sound public policy.