Senate Panel: Barshefsky on Fast Track to Approval

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Senate Finance Committee members yesterday assured Charlene Barshefsky of her near-certain confirmation as U.S. trade representative and called for the repeal of a law that could have tripped up her nomination.

In a cordial hearing that lasted about two hours, Mrs. Barshefsky pushed the need for negotiating authority to bring Chile into the North American Free Trade Agreement and criticized China's progress toward lowering trade barriers.

Mrs. Barshefsky said her tenure as acting U.S. trade representative since Mickey Kantor left the post to lead the Commerce Department a year ago had given her a taste for the job.

"I relish the challenges of this job and the battles," said Mrs. Barshefsky, who was accompanied by her husband, daughters and other family members.

In another pending confirmation, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 15-1 yesterday to recommend the nomination of Chicago lawyer William M. Daley to be secretary of commerce. Only Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, voted no, saying Mr. Daley has shown insufficient commitment to reducing the department and cutting government subsidies to business.

Mrs. Barshefsky drew a warm reception from the panel, whose members praised her for her toughness and tenacity and attacked a law that briefly had complicated her confirmation.

That law, a 1995 amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, prevents anyone who has aided a foreign government on a trade issue against the United States from holding a top position at the office of U.S. trade representative.

Mrs. Barshefksy, as a lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson, had done work for the Quebec government and Canadian lumber interests before joining the office in 1993.

"The total time spent by me represented approximately eight-tenths of 1 percent of my legal practice," Mrs. Barshefsky said.

Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Delaware Republican, said the law would be waived to allow her nomination. He was supported by the rest of the panel.

"It's ridiculous to put you through a waiver," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican. "I know that you're loyal to this country. …