This is another in a series of ongoing posts following the announcement of a secret free trade deal on May 10, 2007 between a handful of senior Democrats and the Bush administration.
In a stunning interview with reporters, House Democratic leaders began bragging that the reason they kept the deal secret in the first place - and perhaps the reason the legislative text of the deal remains secret - is because they feared the concessions they were making to K Street lobbyists, the Bush administration and top congressional GOP leaders would elicit opposition from the majority of their own congressional Democratic colleagues. The interview came after a contentious House Democratic Caucus meeting where these leaders faced angry colleagues who are now resorting to coordinated House and Senate floor speeches to shine a light on the deal. Here is today's report.
RANGEL BRAGS THAT DEALMAKERS PRIORITIZED GOP AND K STREET CONCERNS OVER DEM CAUCUS: CongressDaily reports that Rangel bragged to reporters that the reason dealmakers kept negotiations secret - and perhaps the reason why the legislative language remains secret - is because they feared rank-and-file Democrats would oppose the concessions that were needed to appease the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, GOP Sen. Charles Grassley (IA), GOP Rep. Jim McCrery (LA) and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who last year traveled to India to trumpet job outsourcing. "Every time we had them all together, someone jumped off," Rangel told reporters after the meeting, referring to that group. "So we said, we can't wait for the Caucus. When we got everybody holding hands, bam! Seal it and catch hell. We did both." The fact that Rangel now admits the Chamber of Commerce was so intimately involved in the negotiations may explain why the Chamber continues to say it has received "assurances" that the much-touted labor provisions in the deal will be rendered unenforceable.
REUTERS/BLOOMBERG - DEM LEADERS FACE "HOSTILE" COLLEAGUES "ANGRY" ABOUT THE TRADE DEAL: Both Reuters and Bloomberg News report that House Democratic leaders yesterday faced "hostile" rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers at a Democratic Caucus meeting forced on them after the leadership tried to prevent such a meeting from happening. These rank-and-file Democrats are "angry" that the deal fails to de-NAFTA-ize trade pacts, and that even the few standards that may be added to new trade deals will be rendered unenforceable. In both stories, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) is claiming that opposition to the deal is coming from just a small number of Democrats at the very same time that Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) admitted to David Broder last week that he believes about three-quarters of all Democratic lawmakers could end up opposing it.
FAIR TRADE DEMS TAKE PROTEST TO THE HOUSE FLOOR: In a series of coordinated speeches on the House floor this week, a group of fair trade Democrats berated the secret deal and the secrecy surrounding it. The move was led by Illinois Rep. Phil Hare (D) and included speeches from Reps. Lipinski (IL), Ellison (MN), Sherman (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Sutton (OH) and Michaud (ME). You can read the speeches here.
COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT COMES BACK TO LOBBY FOR THE DEAL: Newsletter Global Insight reports that "Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will embark on another lobbying mission to the United States on June 7th" to lobby for congressional passage of a free trade agreement with his country in the wake of the secret deal. Uribe's government has been linked by the Washington Post to paramilitary gangs that regularly assassinate union organizers.
RANGEL SAYS HE WILL NOT WHIP VOTES FOR THE DEAL: The Hill reports that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), facing opposition from up to 75 percent of his caucus, said yesterday that "he wasn’t asking members to vote for either the Panama or Peru free-trade deals that could come to the floor for votes as a result of the deal."
K STREET LOBBYISTS BEGIN COUNTING VOTES; ADMIT MOST DEMS WILL PROBABLY OPPOSE: The Hill notes that Ways and Means Committee Democrats, which include many corporate-backed members of the New Democrats, spoke out in favor of the deal. These included Reps. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Vic Snyder (Ark.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Richard Neal (Mass.) and Jim Marshall (Ga.). Meanwhile, "Business lobbyists have said it is unclear whether either the Peru or Panama deals will receive even a majority of support from the Democratic Caucus. "These sources "expect the deals will need as many as 150 votes from Republicans to be approved."
KEY AGRICULTURE GROUPS SLAMS THE DEAL: The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) issued a statement condemning the secret deal, noting how bad it would be for American farmers. "The closed-door, backroom nature of the deal shows once again, like at the WTO and negotiations for other free trade agreements, how deeply flawed outcomes inevitably result from closed and non-transparent processes," IATP said. "This deal was no different. It completely ignored one of the most damaging and controversial aspects of trade deals: agriculture." The statement goes through how the deal continues to punish farmers. "Agribusiness groups have flourished under the free trade system while farmers in both the U.S. and developing countries have been losing out," the statement concludes. "What we have increasingly witnessed is the consolidation of our food and agriculture system at the expense of small farmers, healthy food and rural communities."
LINKING TRADE TO THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE: Writing in her weekly syndicated column, radio host Amy Goodman notes the very direct connection between the secret deal and the debate over illegal immigration. "When the rules are rigged to allow money to move freely across borders, then people will follow," she writes. "Falling wages south of the border, caused by "free trade," drive people north—no matter how high the wall or how many detention facilities are built to contain them. Make no mistake about it—trade and immigration are linked."
KAPTUR AND SHERMAN TELL CNN THE DEAL WILL BE UNENFORCEABLE: In a joint interview on CNN last night, Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) said the deal is being crafted to be deliberately unenforceable. "This agreement doesn't provide enforceable standards," Sherman said. "Nothing gets enforced unless Bush wants to take an action adverse to a multinational corporation. I don't think that's going to happen."