On July 24, by a vote of 270 to 156, the House passed a bill implementing the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (H.R. 2738).
Because many conservative concerns about free trade were addressed in this particular agreement, the free trade issue that often divides conservatives became a wedge between liberals of different stripes instead.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D.-N.Y.) was one of the proponents of the bill. “It is the first time that we are recognizing the ability to trade with our South American neighbors and to coordinate this with Mexico and the Caribbean and, indeed, to move forward so that we can end up with a free trade agreement for the Americas,” he said, praising the bill.
Rep. Pete Stark (D.-Calif.), another liberal, railed against the trade agreement. “Not only do I speak on behalf of numerous Members who oppose this,” he said, “but I also speak on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers of America, the UNITE, the needle trades, and the Machinists Union.”
Stark argued that free trade costs American jobs and weakens labor unions. “American workers have suffered too many job losses for the sake of free trade,” he said. “Our nations unemployment rate reached 6.4 percent in June, the highest rate in more than 9 years, causing the loss of more than 1 million jobs in the last 3 months. Since NAFTA, we have lost 500,000 jobs due to NAFTA. The Chilean agreement, he argued, would lead to more of the same.
On the conservative side, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) spoke in favor of the bill. Although it allows 6,800 additional H1-B visas, he said, his Judiciary Committee deducted that number of H1-Bs from the current legal limit under U.S. immigration law, so that there is no net gain.
He also pointed out that another provision would protect American workers in labor disputes from H1-B competition. Under the bill, he said, “an employer generally cannot sponsor an alien for an EL or H-1B1 visa if there is any labor dispute occurring in the occupational classification at the place of employment, regardless of whether the labor dispute is classified as a strike or a lockout. In this regard, title IV of both bills provides greater worker protection than that presently contained in the H-1B program.”
Sensenbrenner was largely supportive of the other provisions in the agreement. “Reducing barriers to U.S. exports is crucial to restoring Americas economic vibrancy,” he said. “Strong safeguards in these agreements will ensure that the governments of Chile and Singapore create criminal sanctions to punish intellectual property theft with the seriousness and severity that it demands. In addition, the antitrust provisions will ensure that these governments do not rely on the increasingly common foreign practice of manipulating antitrust laws to discriminate against American businesses.”
Some conservatives, especially southerners, opposed the bill because of the effect it could have on industries in their districts, especially the textile industry. But none of them spoke against the bill on the House floor.
A “yes” vote was a vote to implement the trade agreement with Chile. A “no” vote was a vote against the bill.
|FOR THE BILL: 270||AGAINST THE BILL: 156|
|REPUBLICANS FOR: 195
DEMOCRATS FOR: 75
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 27
Davis, Jo Ann
DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 128
INDEPENDENT AGAINST: 1
NOT VOTING: 8
|REPUBLICANS (6):||DEMOCRATS (2):||INDEPENDENTS (0)|
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