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“This has never ever been done before in the 34-year history” of fast-track rules, he said. It is “absolutely outrageous” to suggest that the White House has not been working with Democratic leaders on a final trade agreement.
But Democrats said the administration’s tough stands jamming the Democrats on unrelated issues had also soured them on working with the administration.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who has 25,000 residents of Colombian descent in her district, said she is conflicted over the issue and would like to see an agreement.
“I’m getting it from both sides,” she said.
But she said Bush showed “incredibly poor judgment” to send the trade bill up at a time when the economy is struggling and without accommodating Democratic leaders.
“Their my-way-or-the-highway approach on everything else has done them absolutely no good on Colombia,” she said. She predicted that unless the administration offers significant concessions to Democratic priorities, the Colombian deal won’t reach the floor.
“A little cooperation on the things our leadership cares about would be good,” she said, citing the sour taste from vetoes of stem-cell research, appropriations bills and children’s health insurance.
Meanwhile, Republicans sought to rally support from the business community, aiming to get groups to score the vote on the new House rule as a key vote. Democratic supporters of Colombia warned the business community that would be counterproductive.
“They are going to make people who are friendly, who want to make this happen, have a sour taste in their mouth,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), a supporter of the Colombia pact. Meeks backed Pelosi’s move, saying it “is actually going to save it instead of kill it” because it would have been defeated on the floor otherwise.
“It means we need to have more consultations,” Meeks said.
“All of the advice the administration got was it was a tough sell with the speaker’s imprimatur,” said Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.). “Without the speaker, it’s an impossible sell.”
Davis said the Bush administration should have realized that no vote on the trade pact was preferable to a “no” vote.
And House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who has backed a Colombia pact, said the administration had failed to address Democratic concerns on violence against union leaders and said he supported the speaker’s decision, which he said would prevent what would be an embarrassing defeat for the pact on the House floor.
“They have not offered anything other than ... trips to Cartagena for Members,” Rangel said. “What have they done to promote this bill except to say they want it?”
Rangel, who has pushed for an extension of unemployment benefits, said the administration needs to offer “anything that shows a sensitivity to millions of Americans who are out of work.”
The administration has repeatedly complained publicly and privately that Democrats have never told them what it would take to get them to sign on to a deal, and felt squeezed because unless they sent it up this week they would not have been assured of a vote this year.
Now, they aren’t even assured of that.
Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.