Today, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9) announced that he plans to vote against the trade negotiating authority legislation sponsored by Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) unless Congress first passes reasonable worker assistance and economic stimulus packages.
“Until the President and House Leadership follow through on their promise to enact a meaningful workers’ relief package and a reasonable, fair economic stimulus package, I cannot vote to give the President trade promotion authority,” explained Smith. “While I support the idea of trade negotiating authority, I will not vote to give it to President Bush until he reins in the conservative wing of his party and keeps his promise to enact a strong workers’ assistance package and a fiscally responsible, balanced stimulus package.”
Smith said reports that conservatives forced changes in the House Leadership and Bush Administration’s policies in exchange for fast track support concern him. “The President promised us a fair worker assistance package, and indicated support for the principles outlined by the bipartisan Budget Committee leadership,” he said. “The conservatives in the Republican party threatened to pull support for fast track, and in so doing, they have linked these policies. If those are the rules of the game, there is no reason for Democrats who support worker assistance and a fair economic stimulus package to support fast track legislation.”
A worker assistance package must include health care assistance and measures to assist workers who have become unemployed as a result of the terrorist attacks, said Smith. “When we passed the airline assistance package, House leadership promised us that a worker relief package was on the way,” noted Smith. “I’m still waiting, and more importantly, thousands of Americans and their families are still waiting.”
Furthermore, an economic stimulus package needs to be more balanced and fiscally responsible, Smith said. “A responsible and constructive economic stimulus package would be more fiscally responsible, make investments in the infrastructure needed to ensure a strong economic foundation for the future as well as today. It can’t be just an excuse to cut taxes and further erode the ability of our government to do its job.”
Smith has been a longtime supporter of trade measures, including permanent Normal Trade Relations for China, the Vietnam trade agreement, and the Jordan trade agreement. He has urged for greater consideration of labor and environmental issues in trade agreements, and for inclusion of those issues in fast track legislation, and says he is pleased that so much progress has been made on these issues since 1998.
“I applaud the hard work done by my colleagues Cal Dooley, John Tanner, Bill Jefferson, Sander Levin, and Charlie Rangel in moving fast track in the right direction,” said Smith. “In fact, the Thomas bill is very close to what I would like to see in a fast track bill. However, I cannot vote for this legislation when thousands of workers and Americans around the country are still waiting for Congress to address the urgent issues that have arisen as a result of the terrorist attacks.”
Smith is hopeful there are still prospects for bipartisan cooperation on all these issues.
“I think if the House leadership invites more people to the bargaining table, we can come up with a worker assistance program, an economic stimulus package, and even a fast track bill that can garner bipartisan support,” Smith said. “I urge the White House and Congressional leadership to come together and work through these critical issues.”