CAFTA and Congress-The Sausage Factory
- You can also call toll free 1-888-322-1414 to hear this message.
The Sausage Factory
By Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
August 1, 2005
Congress passed a multinational trade bill known as CAFTA last week,
but not without a feverish late night vote marred by controversy and
last-minute vote switching. Leaving aside the arguments for or
against CAFTA itself, the process by which the bill ultimately passed
should sicken every American who believes in representative
Late-night arm-twisting by House leaders to get votes is of course
nothing new. We witnessed far worse when Congress passed the ruinous
Medicare prescription drug bill in the dead of night two years ago.
Yet even after months of unprecedented wheeling and dealing by
corporate lobbyists, congressional leaders, and the White House, the
Washington establishment still failed to pass CAFTA in the US House.
That¹s right, when the 15-minute voting period expired last Wednesday
evening, CAFTA seemingly had been defeated.
Here¹s how. As the vote progressed, the tally was neck and neck. When
the 15-minute period ended, CAFTA had gone down in flames. But
pro-CAFTA forces were so determined to get what they wanted, they
broke the rules. House leadership ignored the time limit and kept
twisting arms and making deals until they finally had the votes to
pass CAFTA nearly an hour later.
What kind of deals? Well, one member of House leadership told
reluctant legislators, ³We've got to have you; you tell us what you
want.² And tell they did. Lawmakers in textile producing states were
bought off with promises of textile subsidies. Lawmakers in
sugar-producing states were bought off with promises of special
treatment in the 2007 farm bill. On and on it went, with promises of
new bridges, parks, and whatever else it took to pass CAFTA.
Rest assured that you will pay dearly for these bribes used to buy
votes. Every favor granted and every pet project funded comes on top
of the pork-laden appropriations bills already passed in the House
this year. These new goodies will be added to the final House-Senate
versions passed later this year. One of my colleagues estimated that
the price tag for buying the CAFTA vote will be at least $50 billion.
That¹s right, $50 billion to win a vote. Is this what you want from
your representatives in office?
Perhaps the strangest vote buyoff occurred two days before the CAFTA
vote. Lawmakers from hard-hit manufacturing districts steadfastly
have opposed CAFTA, arguing that it would accelerate the outsourcing
of jobs to nations with cheap labor. So House leaders scrambled to
craft last-minute legislation to ³get tough² on China, which is the
real source of concern for most American manufacturers. A bill was
drawn up, and a hasty vote cast, so lawmakers could explain that they
traded a yes vote on CAFTA for action against China. One small
problem presented itself, however: the China bill failed on the House
floor! So House leaders went back to the drawing board, struck some
and held a second vote on the same bill the next day. This time it
passed, but its chances of surviving the Senate or a White House veto
are virtually nil. So members from manufacturing districts literally
sold their votes for nothing. Their months of double-talking,
coyness, and vote peddling resulted in nothing more than an empty
The president¹s press secretary called the CAFTA vote ³a real victory
for the American people.² The problem is the vast majority of
Americans have not even heard of CAFTA, and those who have
overwhelmingly oppose it. CAFTA was conceived and created by
corporate interests, and to claim otherwise is preposterous. The
CAFTA vote had nothing to do with the American public, or even trade
policy per se. CAFTA was driven by politics and nothing more.
Multinational corporations and political globalists share the same
goals, namely the centralization of political power in international
bodies and the diminution of national sovereignty. What we witnessed
last week was not just the selling of votes, but also a sellout of
American control over our own trade regulations.