In Defense of The ‘CAFTA 15’

By August 1, 2005General

Well, the labor skates have unleashed a torrent on the 15 Democrats who voted for CAFTA. And they’re not alone. Roll Call, one of the Capitol Hill newspapers, reported on Friday that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blew a gasket in the Democrats’ caucus meeting on Friday. “I’ve never seen her like that”, a Democratic aide is quoted as saying in a story by Erin Billings. The 15, interestingly enough, included three members of the Congressional Black Caucus and three members of the Hispanic Caucus. For being free traders, for understanding the beneficial impact that free trade will have on their constituents, they must now be “punished” in the eyes of some in their party. In the Clinton Administration, many more Democrats voted for these free trade pacts, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out last week. However, since George Bush took office, far fewer Democrats are free traders. The Working Life blog notes that “about 100 Dems voted for NAFTA, about 70 on PNTR [Permanent Normal Trading Relations, for China], about 23 on fast track in 2001, and 15 on CAFTA.” Makes one wonder if this mass change in position is motivated by something other than the facts.

Incredibly, the New York Times, for its part, rushed to the defense of the 15 in an editorial on Friday, saying, “…[T]he CAFTA 15 deserve respect for their independence and good judgment.” Wow — not often we’re on the same page as the Times. Similarly, the Chicago Tibune praised Rep. Melissa Bean — one of the 15 whose district is home to many manufacturing workers who will benefit from CAFTA — under the headline, ““Melissa Bean’s Brave Vote” for the courage of her vote in the face of withering pressure from her caucus. NAM President John Engler also singled out Rep. Bean for high praise in a press release.

Our friend Jonathan Tasini, who’s done a great job covering the AFL-CIO split, parts company with us on this one and was singled out for scolding by the New York Times in its editorial for calling on the troops to exact a price from these fifteen.

We’ll stick to our guns: CAFTA will be a net win for manufacturers and the economy (not to mention democracy, if that still counts for anything). We urge the detractors to wait to see if there are any deleterious effects from CAFTA before they start exacting revenge. Unless, of course, this isn’t really a fight about free trade and jobs…..

Oh, and by the way, the dishonesty of all of this is that no doubt the 27 Republicans who voted against CAFTA will all find opponents well-funded by organized labor next time around. So much for carrot and stick. When it comes to partisan politics, the rewards only go one way.

Here’s a link to the entire roll call vote, and Here’s a list of the fifteen. If you’re a manufacturer, don’t forget to thank them.