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#820: Caribbean Trade Bill in Deep Trouble! (fwd)
From: Merrill Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The bad news: The Senate failed to invoke ‘cloture' this morning,
procedurally blocking the Africa-Caribbean Basin trade bill from moving
to a floor vote for the time being.
The good news: It ain't over ‘till it's over. We can pull this out of
the fire, if we work hard and fast!
At 10 a.m. this morning the Senate voted 45-46 on mostly party lines on
a procedural motion (‘cloture') that would have brought HR 434, the
African Growth and Opportunity Act (including CBI enhancement) to the
Senate floor next week. It required 60 votes to pass.
Important: this was no reflection on the popularity of the underlying
legislation which enjoys wide, bipartisan support including the
leadership of both houses and the Administration. Finance Chair Roth
(R-DE) and Ranking Member Moynihan (D-NY) concurred that the underlying
bill would have garnered maybe 75 votes, i.e. three-quarters of the
So what happened? Essentially the bipartisan bill got caught up in a
partisan food fight over non-germane amendments. Democrats wanted
propose a series of amendments on issues like gun control, agribusiness
mergers, etc. Lott was prepared to allow some but not an unlimited
number. Daschle and Lott met yesterday but failed to reach an agreement.
Daschle, who supports the bill, said that, in light of the failure to
reach an agreement, he would call upon all Democrats to vote against
today's cloture motion and that's what most of them did.
Without cloture, the amendment process could drag on indefinitely. This
session of Congress, on the other hand, can not. This means that, as
things stand, Lott will eventually pull the bill off the schedule and
move on to other business. As soon as there is a budget agreement,
Congress will adjourn.
We cannot leave things as they stand -- we must turn this around!
Remember the dark days last year for the Haitian Refugee Immigration
Fairness Act when some thought it was all over? It wasn't. We pulled out
all the stops at the last minute and won. We can do it again!
WHAT TO DO:
1) Call your senators' offices now, both in Washington and locally. Tell
them to go to their party leaders -- Daschle for Democrates, Lott for
Republicans -- and tell them to "Sit down, negotiate in good faith and
REACH AN AGREEMENT to move HR 434 forward to a vote!"
2) Spread the word. Speak to your congregations. Activate your phone
trees. Circulate this message on your email lists.
3) Talk to the editorial boards of your local papers and get them to
write about it. Tell them what a scandal this is.
4) Talk to your local radio stations. (I'll be available for interviews
and can arrange for others as well.)
This is the first major bipartisan trade bill in more than five years
and the last chance before the Seattle WTO meeting to do something
positive for developing countries. It not only benefits Africa, the
Caribbean and Central America with increased access to markets, it also
extends the Generalized System of Preferences (limited trade relief for
poor countries generally) and Trade Adjustment Assistance to U.S.
workers temporarily displaced by trade -- both of which have expired.
If the U.S. cannot do this much, why should the developing countries
even participate if every round is just going to further marginalize
them? Their continued poverty, besides being a moral scandal, does
nothing to help us economically. It hinders our ability to create more
higher-paying export related jobs to produce the things _they_ need to
It is also the last chance for this Congress to rise above its present
reputation as a do-nothing, isolationist, paralytically partisan body.
Let the parties compete, but let them compete to see which is the more
publicly spirited one, not which can be the most obstructionist --
they've already shown that they both have unlimited potential in that
regard! Let them disagree where they must but this bill is not the forum
This is our last chance this year. Let's get to it!
Haiti Advocacy, Inc.
1309 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20003-2302
(202) 547-2952 fax