President Bush decided to ignore the recommendation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and send the Columbia Free Trade agreement to Congress for a vote, yesterday. By law, all trade agreements must be voted on within 90 days of arrival from the White House. During, a press conference today, Pelosi said that the Columbia agreement as it stands today will not pass in the House.
Pelosi told Bush on Monday that she though they needed to continue working on bills to help the economy. “Almost everybody, though, was concerned about losing their standard of living. That their income, purchasing power, their income has gone down, while the cost of everything, all the necessities and the staples – groceries, gasoline, education, health care, housing costs, etc. – had gone up. It was about the cost of things. And I thought it would be important for us to continue conversations related to how we bring some balance to this issue.”
Pelosi warned Bush about the risks of bringing the trade agreement to the floor for a vote right now. “I thought there was a risk, the President sending it to the Congress now. If brought to the floor immediately, it would lose. And what message would that send? And so I thought there was everything to be gained about continuing our conversation. The President disagreed and sent it over yesterday. Today, I discussed with my caucus the prospect of a rule change that we will bring to the floor tomorrow.”
Bush refused to listen, or even negotiate a more acceptable timeframe for a vote on the agreement, so Pelosi is bringing it to the floor on Thursday. Pelosi ended her remarks by stressing that America’s economic problems have to come first. “We’re first and foremost here to look out for the concerns of America’s working families. I take this action with deep respect to the people of Colombia and will be sure that any message they receive is one of respect for their country, and the importance of the friendship between our two countries. But the President took his action. I will take mine tomorrow.”
Bush claims that the agreement is good for the economy, but Democrats are concerned that Columbia is still too violent to pass the agreement. Yesterday, Bush framed the agreement as a matter of trust between friends. “If Congress fails to approve this agreement, it would not only abandon a brave ally; it would send a signal throughout the region that America cannot be counted on to support its friends,” Bush said. This dispute is a fine example of the differences between Democrats and Republicans on economic policy. The Democrats would rather focus on middle class pocketbook issues, while Republicans are more worried about building the economy from the top down instead of the bottom up.
President Bush’s remarks: