Fast Track Slick
December 8, 2001
George W. Bush pulled a fast one on Fast Track. He somehow persuaded enough members of the House to grant him tremendous power to railroad trade agreements through Congress.
On Thursday night, the House Republican leadership kept the vote open until they could twist enough arms to prevail by the slenderest of margins, 215-214. Several House members almost had to be hospitalized for dislocated shoulders and broken elbows.
Basically, Fast Track, now called Trade Promotion Authority, gives the President the power to bring trade accords to Congress and insist upon an up or down vote; amendments are not allowed. This is yet another way that Congress is abdicating its duties.
And the economic effect of this is to enrich the knights of the Business Roundtable and to jeopardize the rights of labor, endanger the environment, and downplay human rights abuses.
Bush tried to wrap the trade legislation in red, white, and blue, and insist that he needed it to wage the war on terrorism, though the connection between the two could not be more distant. Free trade, in many instances, has only led to more impoverishment in the Third World, and it is this poverty that is one of the wellsprings of terror.
No matter: The corporations wanted the deal, and Bush rewards his friends.
"The Republicans would not have been able to pass this retrograde trade legislation without the current national emergency, and the American people will remember this for what it is," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "Crass political profiteering."