Pelosi to Prevent Colombia Vote
By Alexander Bolton
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that Democrats will use House rules to prevent a vote on the controversial Colombia free trade agreement.
Pelosi said Democrats decided in a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning to vote on a rule this week to postpone consideration of the controversial trade deal. Pelosi predicted the trade agreement would fail otherwise.
"The rules of the House govern the proceedings in the House of Representatives," Pelosi told reporters.
President Bush sent legislation implementing the deal to Congress on Tuesday in an effort to force a vote on the deal, which is opposed by the AFL-CIO and other labor unions because of violence in Colombia against union organizers.
The deal was signed last summer before the so-called fast-track law expired. Trade deals sent to Congress under fast-track rules cannot be amended, and must be voted on within 90 legislative days.
But for months, followers of the deal have speculated that Pelosi might use the House Rules Committee to try to avoid a vote by arguing that the fast-track law cannot take precedence over House rules.
Some Republicans have accused Pelosi, who is under pressure from labor unions and much of her caucus to oppose the deal, of "cheating" by scheduling a rule change to circumvent fast-track.
"That's not true," she said. "I honor rules."
Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that she warned President Bush not to send the trade agreement to Congress but said he ignored her advice.
While the move was not completely unexpected, its timing is somewhat surprising. Pelosi made the announcement hours before a meeting on the economy between President Bush and House and Senate leaders from both parties.
Pelosi said that Americans' buying power has fallen as the result of a weakened dollar at a time when the costs of consumer goods have gone up.