Pelosi to Stop Clock on Colombia Deal
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw a counter-punch at President Bush on the Colombia free trade agreement today, announcing that the House would vote on a rules change to stop a legally mandated 90-day clock for Congress to take up the measure.
Bush sent Congress the Colombia measure on Tuesday, despite Pelosi's having warned against it last week. Under so-called "fast-track" rules, the House now has 60 days to bring the bill to an up-or-down vote, followed by 30 days for the Senate to do the same.
But Pelosi said today that she would bring a procedural change to the House floor Thursday to drop that 90-day timetable, argung that the House sets its own rules that supersede any fast-track trade law. "The president took his action. I will take mine tomorrow," Pelosi said.
With most Democrats and their labor union allies opposed to the Colombia measure, its prospects for passage are currently unclear. Some Democrats want to wait until Congress passes trade adjustment assistance, or help for displaced American workers, before they have to vote on the Colombia bill. Bush and his fellow Republicans had hoped that starting the 90-day clock would force enough Democrats off the fence to get the measure passed. Now the ball is back in Bush's court -- without a game clock.
"Any vote to delay the consideration of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement would violate the spirit of the law and undermine our ability to create more American jobs," Boehner said. "Let me be clearer: it would be cheating. It would break a promise Democratic leaders made to the American people."
UPDATE 2:37 PM: Pelosi's office is reminding reporters covering this story that Bush "broke years of precedent" by sending the Colombia bill to the Hill despite Pelosi's contrary advice. "In the past three decades of fast track authority, no President has ever sent Congress a trade deal without the consent of House and Senate leaders," Pelosi's office said.
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