This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Peru Free Trade Agreement - the first bill designed to expand the NAFTA trade model. The bill was not supported by any major labor, anti-poverty, human rights, religious or consumer protection advocacy group. And yet even though Democrats were given their congressional majority on a campaign promise to reform America's trade policy, the party's leadership rammed the bill through the House. You can see how your representative voted here. The bill will now move to the Senate.
There is, however, some good news.
Here's Bloomberg's report:
Pelosi and Rangel weren't able to convince a majority of their fellow Democrats to support the agreement, as they voted 109 to 116 against it. Previous accords with Bahrain, Australia and Morocco all garnered more Democratic votes.
"The powerful opposition within the majority party makes clear that this deal was not a good deal for workers and should never have been put forward," Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said. "I hope that the Democratic leadership tells the Bush administration that Congress will now focus on job-creating trade policies and no more of these job-killing agreements."
I say this is good news because a majority of Democrats stood with American workers, farmers and small businesspeople - but it certainly is bad news that the Democratic leadership sold out to K Street by pushing this NAFTA expansion and ignoring the campaign promises that gave them the majority. As we can see, on economic and corporate power issues, the Congress may be called "Democratic" but it is still very much controlled by Republicans - or better put, controlled by the Money Party.
The vote today is also bad news because America's lobbyist-written trade policies continue to ravage this country, while rewarding the worst kinds of behavior abroad. This week, an auto supply parts manufacturer announced plans to pick up and leave North Carolina and open up shop in Mexico. In New Hampshire, another paper mill is shutting down, throwing workers out on the street. Down in Peru - the country we are supposedly giving this trade deal to as a reward for its labor practices - workers striking for an 8-hour day and against child labor abuses were crushed by an official government edict.
As I report on in my nationally syndicated newspaper column out tomorrow, this entire issue is spilling into the presidential campaign in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. With Hillary Clinton facing pressure over her silence on the NAFTA expansion that is now headed to the Senate for a vote, and with the House now making headlines endorsing the NAFTA expansion, the debate over America's trade policy is going to ratchet up even further.
The invisible culture of corruption is going into overdrive in anticipation. For example, this week the corporate front-group Third Way issued a report are desperately claiming the problem is that Democrats just haven't sold these trade deals effectively - rather than the fact that these deals are crushing the middle class. It all means that the Democratic Party faces a decision - will it continue supporting the status quo, or will finally make real changes and stand with Middle America?
The House vote shows us what the majority of congressional Democrats want. Whether they have the strength to force their party and the Washington Establishment to change is contingent on how much of a movement we can build to support them.
Cross-posted from CAF