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CAFTA Accountability

The New American, October 3, 2005 Issue

Politicians who barter away U.S. sovereignty and American jobs and industry for a new world order must be made to pay a political price.

“I am flat-out, completely, horizontally opposed to CAFTA.” So declared Rep. Robin Hayes on July 25 (as quoted by The Charlotte Observer), in what appeared to be a set-in-concrete reconfirmation of his unalterable opposition to the controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement. Two days later, in a fierce, high-stakes floor battle in the House, Hayes did indeed vote against CAFTA — before flip-flopping and changing his “nay” vote to “yea.”

His vote provided a key “yea” that gave CAFTA a razor-thin 217-215 victory. Hayes claims that he received last-minute concessions from President Bush that will protect his constituents.

It is an empty promise, of course. Even if the administration follows through on its promised efforts (which past experience shows is unlikely), the likelihood that Congress and the other countries that are parties to the agreement would approve his desired changes is virtually nil.

Why the Pressure Tactics?
The Robin Hayes vote flip-flop was just one of many episodes that demonstrate the high stakes involved in the battle over CAFTA. There are many similar stories demonstrating the incredible lengths to which the White House and the GOP leadership went to bribe, browbeat, and cajole Republicans (and 15 Democrats) into the CAFTA camp.

Reporting on the CAFTA battle, The Hill (an important daily newspaper that focuses on political dealings in the Capitol) noted that the trade pact “was so controversial that Republicans last year opted to delay a vote until after the November elections. The White House then tabled CAFTA in the first months of this year to focus on Social Security.”

When the administration did turn its attention to CAFTA, it didn’t hold back.

The Washington Trade Daily quoted Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) as vowing to “twist some Republican arms until they break in a thousand pieces,” in order to pass CAFTA. Why was the White House turning loose Rep. Kolbe to terrorize Republican House members on a trade bill when it had not bothered to show anywhere near that same kind of commitment to any of the many moral issues that are so important to the core constituency — conservative Christians — that had put Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress? Why is the Republican “big tent” big enough to accommodate homosexual activists like Rep. Kolbe who are way out of step with most Americans (including rank-and-file Republicans), but not big enough to accommodate Republicans who oppose trade agreements that threaten American sovereignty, industry, and jobs? Why were anti-CAFTA Republicans threatened with such harsh retribution?

Why was so much political and economic capital spent by the White House, the Republican leadership, and its big business allies to pass CAFTA? After all, even if one believed the most rosy predictions about economic benefits to the U.S. from CAFTA, the possible total positive impact from the pact is virtually negligible. The economies of the CAFTA countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic) are so small and poor that they cannot buy any significant amount of U.S. products.

The main reason why the administration was willing to pull out all the stops to obtain a CAFTA victory is that CAFTA is a vital steppingstone to a much larger goal. As the Bush White House stated in its January 16, 2002 press release announcing the official opening of CAFTA negotiations: “This negotiation will complement the United States’ goal of completing the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) no later than January 2005 by increasing the momentum in the hemisphere toward lowering barriers.”

CAFTA represents (and FTAA even more so) a major installment in an ongoing process of NAFTA “enlargement.” NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was passed in 1993 with the Clinton administration using the same kind of brass knuckles tactics that the Bush administration used to pass CAFTA. CAFTA and the proposed FTAA aim at widening and deepening the economic, political, and social integration of the countries of the Western Hemisphere to the point that we will eventually be merged into a single entity like the European Union. While holding out promises of prosperity and cheap consumer goods through these falsely labeled “free trade” pacts, the globalist architects of these agreements are pushing another hidden agenda that is becoming more and more transparent.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a member of the executive committee of the Trilateral Commission and a major insider at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), two of the most influential internationalist, one-world organizations, called the 1993 vote on NAFTA the single most important decision that Congress would make during Mr. Clinton’s first term. In fact, Kissinger famously opined (in a Los Angeles Times op-ed) that passage of NAFTA “will represent the most creative step toward a new world order taken by any group of countries since the end of the Cold War.” NAFTA, he candidly (and correctly) noted, “is not a conventional trade agreement, but the architecture of a new international system.”

And that “new international system,” that “new world order,” would sound the death knell for our present constitutional order. Hence, the internationalists in both the Republican and Democrat Parties ramped up their efforts to sabotage America’s national sovereignty. The role of the Democrats in throwing the CAFTA fight is as notable as the heavy-handed tactics of the GOP leadership. While spouting lots of flamethrower rhetoric to satisfy its labor and environmentalist base, the Democrat leadership strategically pulled its punches. Most notably, in this “top priority” vote, the Democrats didn’t even deploy their house whip. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) basically sat out the battle on the sidelines. (Both Pelosi and Hoyer are committed Clintonite internationalists, and both voted for NAFTA.)

“Despite the high stakes of the battle,” noted reporter Josephine Hearn of The Hill, “Democrats have opted not to activate their own whip operation to counter Republican efforts, a highly unusual decision for an important vote.” (Emphasis added.) An apparently puzzled Hearn reported: “Instead, the work of ‘whipping’ the caucus is being led by Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the seventh-ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Ballot Box Option
Outraged over the CAFTA sellout of America, some patriots have suggested that the outcome might be reversed in the courts. Some have advocated a lawsuit challenging Congress for violating the “15-minute rule.” According to House rules, CAFTA required a two-hour debate and then a 15-minute period for members to cast their votes. When the 15-minute voting period was up on July 27, CAFTA was defeated by five votes, 180-175. But House leaders kept the vote open in violation of the rules for an additional 48 minutes, ending the vote just after midnight. However, as maddening and egregious as the CAFTA vote manipulations were, there is no constitutional basis (and even less practical hope) of reversing the action through judicial recourse. The House and Senate are the custodians and judges of their own rules. The courts have been loath to get involved (and rightly so) in matters that deal with the legislative processes of Congress.

Redress of grievances about CAFTA will not come from the Supreme Court or any other federal bench; it must come from the ballot box, as informed, outraged voters hold their senators and representatives accountable for betraying their constituents and their oaths of office.


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