Clinton: Fast-Track Authority Isn't Dead
The president says he still expects to win trade negotiating authority during this Congress
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 10) -- Disappointed but determined, President Bill Clinton said today he thinks Congress will ultimately give him fast-track trade negotiating authority.
Clinton told reporters he was disappointed there were not the votes over the weekend, when the House leaders postponed a showdown on the trade legislation rather than risk an embarrassing defeat for the president.
But Clinton said they plan to bring the issue back when they do have the votes, and he thinks that will happen during this Congress, if not this year.
"But what we're going to do now is regroup a little bit and find a way to succeed, and I think we'll be able to do that," he said. Taking a break, Clinton declared, will remove some of the emotion from the issue and "let the temperature go down."
Clinton said there might have been enough votes to pass the fast-track authority if he had been willing to compromise with some Republican House members on the question of the U.S. providing family-planning funds for international organizations. But Clinton said he did not think it was right to mix the two issues, or compromise his own views on the family planning question. (448K wav sound)
The president rejected a reporter's assertion that the fast-track postponement represented his second-worst defeat, after the collapse of his ambitious, national health-care proposal during his first term.
Clinton said the health-care proposal was even more wrapped up in politics and partisanship and there were vested interests which wanted to perform what he called "reverse plastic surgery" on the proposal.
"And when it [the health-care proposal] was dead, it was dead," Clinton said. "This is not dead." (448K wav sound)
In fact, Clinton said he nearly has the votes he needs to pass fast-track now. "So, all we need is a few breaks to have more than enough votes to pass it, and what I would like to do is bring it back up at a time where we can pass it with a big vote and much stronger vote from both parties," he said.
A thank-you to Gingrich
Clinton offered "a profound word of thanks" to House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Democrats who supported his position. "This was a partnership for the national interest, and I am very grateful for what they are doing," Clinton said.
Clinton said he didn't question the integrity of his critics in Congress, only their judgment about the effect of expanded trade on the U.S. economy.
"Was there some politics in it?" Clinton asked. "Of course, there is. But there's politics in every tough vote that has been held in the Congress and any legislative body in my lifetime. I did not question their integrity. I questioned their judgment, and I do believe that there were some who felt that it was a politically impossible vote ..."
In Other News: