Last night, President Bush eked out a very narrow victory on his top trade priority, with the House of Representatives approving a free-trade agreement with Central American countries by just two votes. The House vote was held open for more than one hour to ensure passage. The final tally was 217 to 215.
The White House's victory on CAFTA was achieved through a combination of intense pressure and outright bribery to secure support for the measure, which fostered strong opposition from Democrats and Republicans. As Republican Representative C.L. "Butch" Otter, Republican of Idaho, told the Boston Globe today, GOP leaders promised pork-barrel spending and future legislation to undecided members, with a massive highway spending bill scheduled to be completed this week as a prime location for pet projects. "They're pulling out all the stops," Otter said. "They're either promising or threatening. They've done everything they could." (The Idaho rep. said he opposed CAFTA, despite personal lobbying from Bush at the White House.)
At least the GOP legislators were able to wrest unrelated bribes for their districts in return for their votes. That much cannot be said for the 15 so-called Democrats who voted for the pact and made passage possible.
As Jonathan Tasini writes in his excellent blog, The Working Life, "If we ever want to make politicians take us seriously when it comes to important laws touching the lives of workers, we must punish the 15 so-called Democrats who voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)--and punish them hard."
Click here to see who these 15 are and what to do to make clear to them your anger over their pro-CAFTA votes.