Clinton Pulling Out The Stops On Fast-Track
He makes a last-ditch attempt to pressure House members before Friday's vote
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 6) -- President Bill Clinton made a last-ditch attempt tonight to "pull out all the stops" and get fast-track trade legislation through the House Friday.
"We think we can get there tomorrow, and that's what we're trying to do," Clinton said.
Clinton declined to say how many votes short he thought he was. "I think it's a close call," he said. "Obviously, I'm here because I'm trying to pull out all the stops." (384K wav sound)
"But the policy's not close," Clinton said. "And I'm convinced that a substantial majority of the Congress knows the policy's not close, that it's clearly in America's interest to do this."
The fast-track bill would give the president the authority to negotiate trade bills that would only be subject to an up-or-down vote in Congress. Clinton and his supporters say the authority is essential, but opponents say it would lead to more pacts like NAFTA, which they say hurt American workers and the environment.
Clinton said the nature of the bill has made it hard to drum up support. "Because this is the authority for the president to continue to negotiate trade agreements, rather than a specific agreement with a lot of specifics in it, there's not as much public interest, public awareness or public involvement in this," he said. Clinton said that has made it harder to invoke the national interest.
Clinton hailed the "extraordinary moment" earlier today when former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush spoke out in favor of granting the president fast-track authority at the dedication of Bush's presidential library in Texas. Clinton cut his Texas trip short to return to Washington and wring out a few more votes.
The president also said that while deals have been cut to help get this through the House, none had been cut on abortion.
"If there are any economic issues that affect congressional districts or states that we can resolve honorably, we've worked hard to resolve those in ways that are consistent with what we're trying to do on fast-track," he said. "If there are other issues that we can resolve that prevent the business of the Congress [from going] forward, we're trying to resolve them. But there has been no agreement" on abortion, he said.
Clinton said that this year's bill includes for the first time congressional observer groups and panels that will protect labor and environmental interests similar to those that looked out for business interests in past years' versions of the legislation.
These additions, Clinton said, will give Congress a greater voice in the initial negotiating of trade pacts than previously.
Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt announced today that 15 previously undecided House Democrats have agreed to join him in his opposition to so called "fast-track" legislation.
Gephardt in a paper statement said, "I hope now that the Administration will rethink this approach and submit a fast track bill that accounts for labor, environmental, narcotics enforcement and human rights issues."
CNN's Sarah Ruth contributed to this report.
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