Senators Demand Weaker Trade Bill: `Fast Track' Opens Path to Labor Rules
Woellert, Lorraine, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday called for fundamental changes in a Clinton trade bill less than a day after it was introduced in Congress.
Committee members said President Clinton's long-awaited "fast track" bill, which would allow the White House to draw up trade deals that Congress can't amend, would rob lawmakers of too much power.
"I will never vote to limit my ability, or any other senator's ability, to amend an agreement that has to do with international labor standards," said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican. "As I read your proposal, it is totally and absolutely unacceptable. It will never be approved by the United States Senate."
Opposition to the bill, while not unexpected, means that no action will be taken until the end of the month despite hopes of quick passage.
"The Clinton proposal is going to have to go through some significant changes to receive Republican support," Finance Committee spokeswoman Ginny Flynn said. "The ball is in their court, but certainly the chairman does want to get an acceptable proposal through this year."
Mr. Clinton appears to have pleased no one with his efforts at trying to satisfy both union-sympathetic Democrats and free-trade Republicans. The latter didn't want a bill muddied with labor protections.
"It's almost like it's a race to strip things out or pile things in," said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat.
Mr. Clinton on Tuesday heard from angry labor groups and some Democrats, who criticized his failure to sufficiently protect American workers in the fast-track bill he sent to Capitol Hill. Yesterday Republicans found fault with the bill, saying it gives the administration broad powers beyond simply negotiating trade agreements. …