Fast Track Trade Bill Debate: Jobs vs. Tax Cuts

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - A leading conservative Wednesday said the Fast Track trade bill, approved by the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the day, would be "the most significant tax cut legislation of the decade." The fate of the bill, however, rests with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who recently said the trade bill wasn't a top priority and would not go to the Senate floor until next year.

The legislation, formally known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), would give President Bush more power and flexibility to negotiate foreign trade agreements, thus its nickname: Fast Track. Congress would still have to approve any deal, however.

The House of Representatives last week passed its version of the legislation by a single vote. And Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved its bill, 18-3. But the full Senate is not expected to consider the measure until 2002.

At a recent Capitol Hill press conference, Daschle said the Senate would first work on bills dealing with energy, stem cell research and election reform before tackling trade promotion authority.

That's fine with the AFL-CIO because the labor union thinks Fast Track will take jobs away from Americans.

"The Republican leaders and the Bush administration capped a year of punishment for working families with one last disgraceful vote before the end of the legislative session," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, referring to last week's vote in the House.

"They began the year by rolling back hard-won worker protections. They continued their attacks with a shameful 'worker relief' package that not only fails to provide relief to unemployed workers or stimulate our sputtering economy but shamefully lavishes tax rebates on profitable corporations. Now they have elected to end the year with a flawed trade measure that will cost more working Americans their jobs," Sweeney said.

But, Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, called for quick Senate passage of the trade legislation.

"This is by far the most important vote of the Bush Administration, and if Tom Daschle gives it a chance to pass the Senate, TPA will be the most significant tax cut legislation of the decade," said Norquist.

"It will create millions of jobs, boost the financial markets, secure democratic governments throughout the Western Hemisphere and give the president a powerful tool to reward those nations who support us in the fight against terrorism and punish those who are slow to aid us," Norquist said.