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Public Citizen Reports on the State of Fast Track

by from Public Citizen - OCT 11 Thursday, Oct. 25, 2001 at 5:32 PM

Though the Fast Track Bill narrowly past through the house committee, Public Citizen sees this is a very winnable fight.

Update on Fast Track Mark-Up in Committee & Next Steps

latest update as of 10/11/01 Public Citizen

Contact Your Representative

Tell Him/Her to Vote NO on Thomas' Fast Track Bill

In a remarkably partisan split, the Ways and Means committee voted on Rep. Thomas' Fast Track bill (H.R. 3005) last night (10/9/01) after four hours of nasty, bitter partisan rancor. The Ways and Means committee is stacked with 7 more Republicans than Democrats on it, so it was inevitable that the bill would be vote out of committee whenever Chairman Thomas called a vote.

What was REMARKABLE is that only two Democrats on the committee voted for the bill. Those two Dems are Tanner (TN) and Jefferson (LO) who had already supported the original Crane Fast Track bill. Every single other Democrat -including those who always vote against us on trade - such as Reps. Rangel, Levin., Matsui and McDermott - all opposed the Thomas bill. Indeed - there has never been such strong opposition to a trade vote on what is normally a very free-trade friendly committee. Given the stacked committee, this outcome is about as good as we could have gotten on a Fast Track with bright partisan lines drawn and lots of personal insult and divisiveness to boot.

The bad news though is that now that the bill is out of committee, it can be brought to the floor at any time. After the mark up, Chairman Thomas said it would be next week. (We do not believe that, but we have to be ready.) Other GOP House leaders have said it will be "in the next few weeks."

Do not despair: remember that Fast Track in 1997 was cleared out of committee and they had scheduled a floor vote and were about to start the floor debate when they announced that the bill was being pulled. So, it is not cataclysmic that the bill is out of committee, it is just horrible...

But, that committee vote is NOT any sort of an indication that Thomas' bill could pass on the floor! In fact, if we do our work - they will NEVER CALL A VOTE. That is our goal: if we deny them with the certainly that they have the votes they will NOT call a vote. Then Congress will recess in the first week of November without doing Fast Track and we will have won. On the other hand, as soon as they think that they have the votes, they will have a vote!!!

When could we see a floor vote on Fast Track?

A mark-up clears the way for a possible floor vote of a bill. As we have said all along, the Republicans will not schedule this for a vote unless they think that it has a chance of actually passing. So far the GOP have not been able to attract many Dems to support the Thomas bill and such a partisan mark-up certainly does not help their cause. The GOP plan is to try to pass the bill with 200 GOP and just a few Democrats. We need to lock down the GOP who are with us and make sure there are enough Democrats to make up the difference from the GOP we have. The GOP leaders and some in the Bush Administration are on a desperate mission though and have already started twisting arms and try to cut deals in order to have their way. Over the next few days and possible weeks, all undecided Members will be under tremendous pressure, and even Members who were opposed to Fast Track will be pressured to change their votes.

How do we fight Fast Track now?

We must intensify what we have been doing all along: continue to mobilize pressure against specific Members of Congress to get them to come out against Fast Track and to organize in opposition to Fast Track in every Congressional District around the country. The business lobby is mighty in its wealth, but there is certainly no real coalition of people behind it. We have been building for this moment since the spring, and now we must lock down our victory! The steps are simple but effective:

-> CALLS to your Member of Congress + to all undecided Members in your state (call us for the latest update on who they are: 202-546-4996 - ask for any member of the GTW field team) by using AFL-CIO's toll-free number: 1-800-393-1082. Right now, this is the most effective way to fight Fast Track. When calling, make sure you ask to speak with the person who handles trade issues, and ask for a written response to your call. In many cases you will end up leaving messages, if you have not heard back from the staffer within a day call back. Get everyone you know to make these calls as well.

-> LETTERS (via fax, snail mail or e-mail) to the undecided Members. On several web-pages you can find convenient sample letters that you can send directly from the page. Here are a few that we like: Our very own and from the AFL-CIO all you have to do is enter your zip-code to be able to e-mail your Representative.

-> EVENTS at home. Depending on when the vote gets scheduled there still might be some opportunities to organize meetings with your Member, public events etc.

Since we don't know exactly when and if there will be a floor vote, when is the most strategic time to call my Member?

Sometimes it might seem to you that we are crying wolf - - alerting you to take immediate action because a Fast Track vote is imminent but then nothing happens. Well, what is actually happening when that happens is that you have just been effective and have won a victory.

The thing to know is that the only reason they have to pull their mark-ups or they delay their floor vote on Fast Track (recall the same GOP House leaders have been saying since before July 4th that they wanted an imminent vote...) is because we have bested them. The only way we keep doing that is by pouring on pressure and raising enough noise. You should call your Member today and keep on calling with regular intervals until you get a clear answer on her/his position on Fast Track. Get them to put it in writing and ideally have a thank you event where they declare

their opposition in front of lots of people and press, so when push comes to shove right before congress gavels outfor this session, we have them all glued down. A floor vote could come up as soon as next week but if we are winning we will have final victory by running them off the clock - they will have to leave town never having had the votes to do Fast Track and we will have a big party!

We will keep you updated as best we can, and you should also feel free to check in with us for the latest updates.

By keeping a constant pressure on the Members we continue to make it politically impossible for the GOP leadership

to bring the bill to a vote. That's why you must continue the calls and get people you know to do the same.

What are some talking points I can use?

* This is not the time to bring up such a divisive and controversial issues. As the mark-up showed, Fast Track

destroys the bipartisanship that was created after September 11th. There are many urgent things that MUST BE

done for the millions who are suddenly without a job, to safeguard us from future attacks. Congressman, WHY are

you wasting your and our time on this divisive, damaging issue?

* The Thomas bill (H.R. 3005) is a slap in the face - it is the same old anti-labor, anti-environmental garbage that was

in the 1997 and 1998 Fast Track with some new rhetoric. It does not in any meaningful way address the issues of

labor and the environment, it does nothing to fix the Chapter 11 NAFTA investment rules that attack key local laws,

nor does it give Congress a more active role to assure these negotiators stop
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