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House of Representatives Passes China Trade BillAired May 24, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make no mistake about it: This mote is a win, win, win.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the time to make it permanent. Now is the time to say to American companies, please do, go invest in China.
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REP. TONY HALL (D), OHIO: This legislation is a dog and it smells. It deserves to go down.
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REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: And if we don't lead, who will?
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JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A heated debate over the China trade bill. Now, a House vote is near.
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe very strongly this is the right choice for our country.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Vice President Gore it's time for damage control.
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BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Jonathan Karl on the fallout from the China vote. Can Democrats mend fences before election day?
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw. SHAW: Thank you for joining us. We begin with the endgame of what may prove to be the biggest legislative battle of this election year. The House of Representatives is poised to vote on permanent normal trade relations with China.
Our Chris Black is standing by on the Hill -- Chris.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, the House of Representatives is now in the closing minutes of debate. Proponents and supporters -- and opponents of this legislation are making their final statements that reveal deep differences over the U.S. trade policy toward China.
BLACK (voice-over): Emotions were running high when the China trade bill finally reached the House floor.
HALL: This legislation is a dog and it smells. It deserves to go down.
REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: The best way to change China and to change their pitiful human rights record and their abuses is through trade, by opening up their borders.
BLACK: The Democratic leader stayed loyal to organized labor and spoke against the bill.
GEPHARDT: If we don't lead, who will? I ask you, if we give this up, is anyone else in the world going to ask for this kind of review? I think not.
BLACK: But Republican leaders agreed with the Democratic president.
REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Trade with China is good for the Chinese people. It's good for human rights. It's good for democratic reform. It's good for national security. And it's good for American values.
BLACK: The legislation would grant China the same trading status as all but six other nations and would end the annual congressional review of China's trade and human rights policies. And in a concession to China critics, the bill also creates a new human rights commission to monitor activity in China and includes a provision preventing the Chinese from dumping products into the United States.
Opponents dismissed the new human rights commission as meaningless.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO; Will we choose a fig leaf or will we use the power of our voting card annually? Why have a commission when you have a Congress?
BLACK: The president's point-man on this issue argued a country of a billion cannot be ignored.
REP. ROBERT MATSUI (D), CALIFORNIA: This vote will determine whether or not -- China may never be our friend -- will we be able to co-exist with China, or whether China will become an enemy of the United States, so we could have for the next 40, 50 years another Cold War.
BLACK: Both sides spent millions of dollars to influence the vote. Members of the Teamsters Union never letting up, reminding House members of the power of organized labor in this election year.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we put more energy into this than I've ever done.
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BLACK: On the other side, business lobbyists worked to shore up their votes. Some hard-pressed House members struggled until the end.
BLACK: Supporters assigned floor buddies to some Democratic members to make sure they don't change their mind before they vote. Both Democrats and Republicans who support this legislation were pushing hard to get every last vote, not wanting anyone to be blamed for putting this contentious bill over the top -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Chris Black, reporting from the Capitol, thanks.
And now to the White House, where President Clinton is anticipating a political victory after lobbying hard for the China trade bill.
Here's our senior White House correspondent John King -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, we're told the president spending this hour in the White House residence, not the Oval Office. Several senior aides on hand to keep him up-to-date on that House vote -- the White House expecting the president will be in the Rose Garden within the hour to celebrate.
KING (voice-over): Congresswoman Julia Carson walked into the White House at 11:02, back out 43 minutes later, a quick visit that nonetheless earned her this distinction: the last undecided Democrat to meet face-to-face with President Clinton before the House cast its verdict in the China trade debate.
Administration sources tell CNN Mr. Clinton spent the afternoon on the phone looking for two or three more votes from a target list of 10 undecided Democrats, including Max Sandlin of Texas, Owen Pickett of Virginia, Alcee Hastings of Florida, and Grace Napolitano and Henry Waxman of California. The calls brought to a close an aggressive White House lobbying campaign that included a mix of public appeals, private persuasion, and a little legislative horse-trading.
JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly some members have talked about how this vote might impact their district, and to the extent that we can address those, we do.
KING: The president has called it the most important issue Congress will debate this year and views the trade agreement as the gateway to building more trust between Washington and Beijing. The White House team also knew a big defeat would weaken the president heading into the election-year budget battle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We may see the patients' bill of rights and the prescription drug issue that comes up that will be bipartisan also. The latter two issues are issues that the Republicans think are important now from their polling, and we may see those as the next two issues that he wins on.
KING: Few dispute the economic benefits of more trade with a market of 1.2 billion people, but liberals and labor unions object to the deal because of China's human rights record, and the debate has deeply divided the Democrats. The administration plan is to move quickly from celebration to reconciliation, beginning with a White House health care event Thursday designed to put the president's focus back on issues on which the Democrats speak with one voice.
LOCKHART: We're going to be talking about minimum wage, patients' bill of rights, prescription drugs for Medicare, gun safety, investing in education: These are issues that define the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans.
KING: But the House vote, even if the president wins, won't make this issue go away. Senate passage is expected, but the White House priority once the legislation clears the House be to make sure the Senate does not amend it, because if the Senate made changes, the House would have to vote again -- Bernie.
SHAW: John King at the White House, waiting.
We're joined now by our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, and Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."
Bill, first to you, on the polls: If Americans had a vote on this China trade bill, how would they vote?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The yeas have it. You know, the vote in the public would be 56 to 37 percent. Now, that is a little more support than the measure is likely to get today in the House of Representatives. That's also the highest level of support we've found for this measure for the past six months.
The trade debate has mobilized supporters much more than opponents.
Now, here's the key to public support: By almost exactly the same margin, Americans see international trade more as an opportunity because of increased exports rather than a threat because of imports. To most Americans, the global economy means more markets abroad.
SHAW: What's the political split over the trade vote?
SCHNEIDER: Well, as you know, in Congress, the measure is more supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, but it's a different story with the American public. The trade measure is favored by people of all political stripes -- Republicans, Democrats and independents, conservatives, moderates and liberals. And here's a surprise: Union voters and non-union voters both favor the trade deal, almost equally.
Most of the pressure on Congress to vote no is coming from union leaders, but they have not rallied rank-and-file members against the measure. Solidarity forever? Not on this issue.
SHAW: But why is there so little controversy over this issue?
SCHNEIDER: Because the economy is so good. I mean, look, the better you think the economy is doing, the more you favor normal trade relations with China. The strongest opposition comes from Americans who think the economy's lousy, but most Americans don't feel that way.
If the economy really were lousy, the trade issue would be much more controversial.
SHAW: Does the public reject the idea of linking trade with human rights?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, you might think so, because most people do support this measure, but in fact, they don't. By nearly 2 to 1, Americans say the U.S. should not increase trade with China until the Chinese government gives its citizens more freedom. In fact, nearly half of the people who favor the trade deal feel that way. A normal trading relationship with China does not mean a hands- off policy on human rights.
People feel the U.S. can and should use trade to pressure China to reform. A normal trading relationship may actually make it easier to pressure China.
SHAW: Well, is there any evidence of a political fallout from the day's vote?
SCHNEIDER: Bernie, none at all. This issue has no impact on the way people are voting for president, and the opposition is not politically organized. As long as the economy is good, voters don't view trade as a threat, but if the economy suddenly takes a turn for the worse, then this story could change.
OK, thank you, Bill Schneider. Don't go away -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, now we're going to bring in Stu Rothenberg, our political analyst.
Stu, this has been called the most important vote of the year. Some are saying the most important vote since the vote on impeachment of the president. Is it really that big a deal?
STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, it depends who we're talking about. It's important to the president of the United States clearly. I think it's important to Republicans in Congress. Both the president and congressional Republicans want some accomplishment here: a big issue, a final resolution of this.
It's certainly important to organized labor, business leaders. The leadership of both groups have spent a lot of money for this organizing.
But is it important for the voters? It's hard for me to believe that. I think Bill's absolutely right. I think most people are concerned with their -- what's gone on in their daily lives rather than on the floor of Congress.
WOODRUFF: Losing this a real setback for organized labor?
ROTHENBERG: I think it's something of a setback. You know, recently labor has really started to rattle the cage here. They've been threatening Al Gore, suggestions from the president of the UAW that maybe labor would support Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, for president. Always suggestions that if a member of Congress votes the wrong way, he or she might be in trouble. If you think back to 1993, Judy and the NAFTA vote, the same kind of tactics, and they didn't defeat anybody. It's hard for me to believe that measures are going to go down because they disagree with labor, and it's hard for to believe, frankly, that organized labor is going to takes votes for Al Gore in the fall when the opposition and the alternative is George W. Bush.
WOODRUFF: What about the two political parties, Stu? Do the Democrats have more to lose here than the Republicans?
ROTHENBERG: I don't know. Long term, I think you'd have to say between now and the election, the focus of this debate and this vote is really on Al Gore, on splits within the Democratic Party and the Democratic coalition. And to that extent, any time the focus is on divisions, and a lack of leadership and maybe inconsistencies in opinion, is Al Gore really supportive of the trade bill? Is he trying to waffle it? I think it does not look good for the vice president. I think he looks, again, like he's trying to kind of weasel out of this.
WOODRUFF: All right, Stu Rothenberg, thanks very much, and we'll be coming back to you once we get that vote -- Bernie.
SHAW: Certainly will.
And up next on INSIDE POLITICS: Can Democrats put their divisions over the China trade bill behind him?
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a picture of Mr. Smoot and Mr. Holly.
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SHAW: A look back at past battles over free trade and how they figure into the current political picture.
WOODRUFF: The China trade bill and today's vote on it have made the Democrats political lives more complicated, as they try to recapture the House of Representatives and hold on to the White House.
CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at the potential fallout from this issue, particularly for Al Gore.
KARL (voice-over): For Vice President Gore, it's time for damage control. The China trade vote pitted him against his party's House leaders and his strongest grassroots supporters.
GORE: I believe very strongly this is the right choice for our country, and many of my friends in organized labor have agreed to disagree with me. Some have supported me. Most have supported me in spite of our disagreement on this.
KARL: With just five and a half months until the November election, Democrats will work quickly to reunite, but the bitterness is barely beneath the surface.
REP. DAVID BONIOR (D-MI), MINORITY WHIP: We would have preferred, I think the vice president would have preferred to have this after this election. This is what he wanted, this is what the vast majority of Democrats wanted, so this was rather forced upon us.
KARL: Trade disputes are nothing new for Democrats, but the party's congressional leaders are miffed that President Clinton brought up such a divisive issue so close to an election where control of the House hangs in the balance.
BONIOR: I don't know why he decided to bring it up at this time. I think he was, obviously, pressured by the business community and he decided to go forward with is. It could easily have waited until the following year.
KARL: Privately, some House leadership aides are less charitable, saying President Clinton pushed Chinese trade because he selfishly put his desire for a "legacy" issue ahead of the interests of his party. The White House says the china trade bill wasn't about Clinton's legacy, but about the best interests of the country. After making an all-out push to defeat the China trade bill, organized labor is now left with the difficult task of deciding how or if to punish those who voted yes.
MIKE MATHIS, TEAMSTERS UNION: I think that the members of Congress who vote wrong on this, who for vote for PNTR, are underestimating the amount of anger and frustration that's out there in the work force in this country, the fear of losing jobs.
KARL: But heavy-handed threats by some unions to punish Democrats who voted yes backfired with one influential Democrat.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I feel a sense of either poor judgment or arrogance for anyone to take that position, whether it's the chamber of commerce, whether it's the administration or whether it's labor.
KARL: Now some labor unions are faced with the question of, do they punish Democrats who voted yes, even if that means jeopardizing the possibility of Democratic control of the House come November? Some union leaders are saying that yes, trade is an issue that is more important than party loyalty, but by and large, Democratic activists up here expect that shortly after the vote, what will happen is the party will come together, unions come together, and they will unite on another cause, the cause of Democratic control of the House -- Bernie.
SHAW: Jonathan Karl on the Hill.
In the year 2000, the political risks of supporting free trade are not the same as they were 40 or even 70 years ago. Public opinion and pressure from organized labor have evolved over time.
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UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: And let's use the power of the greatest democracy in the world.
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SHAW: Judging by the intensity of this year's trade debates, America seems to be deeply divided over the wisdom of unfettered trade with the rest of the world.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MISSOURI: Why does the Chinese government insist as a price of giving us access to their market, that we take it away.
SHAW: from the House floor to the union hall to the streets of Seattle, anti-trade forces have put forward a passionate case.
But for all the thunder, history is quite clearly on the side of trade. The last time a major piece of projectionist legislation was signed into law? 1930, when Republican President Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Act, raising import tariffs to their highest level in American history. Smoot-Hawley was blamed for driving the U.S. economy deeper into the depression.
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GORE: This is a picture of Mr. Smoot and Mr. Hawley.
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SHAW: In his 1993 debate with Ross Perot, Al Gore produced a picture of the bills in his defense of NAFTA.
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GORE: They raised tariffs, and it was one of the principle causes, many economists say the principle cause, of the Great Depression in this country and around the world.
Now I framed this so you can put it on your wall.
ROSS PEROT, CHAIRMAN, REFORM PARTY: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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SHAW: Although Gore took heat then, as he is today, from the labor unions for supporting free trade, the vice president is in fact taking a traditional Democratic line. Franklin Roosevelt spent much of the '30's rolling back Smoot-Hawley, against near-unanimous Republican opposition. After the war, Harry Truman signed the general agreement on tariffs and trade. John Kennedy launched the "Kennedy round" of tariff cuts. But the end of the post-war boom brought a significant realignment. Business leaders pushed the GOP into the free trade camp, while labor unions, anxious about imported goods flooding into the United States, began to seek protection.
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": You see this pattern accelerating in the '60s, '70s and '80s, where once most of the protectionist votes in Congress came from Republicans, now most of the votes against free trade come from Democrats.
SHAW: Bill Clinton and Al Gore may have reverted to the Democratic type, but their many free trade initiatives have never gotten support of the unions and their allies.
BROWNSTEIN: They simply have not been able to bring along a majority of congressional Democrats. It's really been the one effort where Clinton has tried to move the party that the party hasn't gone with him.
SHAW: In the first campaign of the 21st century, the anti-trade forces have few good options. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader opposes the China bill, as does Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, but neither has much national support. The two main candidates, in line with public opinion and recent history, are staunch free traders.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SHAW: Even with a free trader in the White House, opposition to free trade bills in Congress is unlikely to disappear altogether, especially if George Bush wins. With a Republican as president, House Democrats would, of course, have little incentive to go against the unions.
Quick question for Bill Schneider.
Given political reality, where will organized labor take its support this fall?
SCHNEIDER: They'll take it to the Democrats as they always have. There is too much at stake. They will vote overwhelmingly Democratic for president and for the House of Representatives. A few unions, steel workers, auto workers may nourish some grievances and may not turn out and -- or work as hard as they might have otherwise, and they'll make a lot of threats about running primary opponents against Democrats who voted yes on this bill, but that won't be until the next election cycle.
SHAW: OK, and the vote on the House floor has yet to happen -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: That's right, and meanwhile I want to pick up on that point with Stu Rothenberg.
Stu, it may well be that the unions are generally going to be supporting the Democrats, but are there some individual Democratic members of Congress worried about keeping or regaining control of the House who are going to be in trouble for supporting this vote?
ROTHENBERG: Well, Judy, you know, there are three dozen House seats that are really in play, and I suppose a handful of Democrats in those races could be affected by labor. But you know, labor has written an awful lot of checks already. I spoke to a candidate, Rick Larson, he's a Democrat in the open Washington 2nd Congressional District, he's received checks from the machinists and the teamsters, he told me if he was in Congress now he would vote for the trade agreement.
I just have to feel that come November, October, November, Democrats are going to be in a position where if they're going to take over the House, organized labor is going to be there for them even if an individual member didn't support the bill.
WOODRUFF: And this vote is going to feel a little bit like history?
ROTHENBERG: I think so, sure, yes. I mean, look, there's a lot of focus on it right now. Labor is very animated about it now. But this too shall pass, and we'll have a -- we'll have national conventions and we'll have an election and the context will be very different.
WOODRUFF: All right, Stu Rothenberg. SHAW: And before we pause for a break, to keep you posted on what's going on, on the floor, there was just a House vote to recommit this legislation, that vote to recommit failed and now these members of the House of Representatives move on to the actual vote.
WOODRUFF: OK, and there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, while we wait.
SHAW: Still to come...
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MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president and vice president, self-proclaimed advocates of campaign finance reform, will play host tonight to the largest political fund raiser in American history
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SHAW: Major Garrett on tonight's big event and the millions of dollars headed for the party coffers.
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GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "We hope that a lot of people vote for you."
So do I.
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WOODRUFF: Has George W. Bush found a way to boost his voter appeal?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A legend, a hero and something more, a superstar, politicians like to be seen with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Bruce Morton on why Colin Powell is the apple of the GOP hopeful's eye.
WOODRUFF: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, including live coverage of the House vote on the China trade bill. That vote has just begun within the last minute or two. It will take about 15 minutes to tally the vote. We will carry the results live just as soon as they are reported.
But now, in the meantime, a look at some other top stories.
Prosecutors dismiss the wiretapping case against Linda Tripp. Prosecutors say the judge's decision to limit testimony from Monica Lewinsky put the case against Tripp in jeopardy. The judge says Lewinsky's testimony relies too much on protected evidence developed during a federal probe of President Clinton. The state had no other witnesses.
Sources on Capitol Hill describe it a "wake-up call" after investigators using phony I.D.s successfully breached security at 19 of the federal government's most secure buildings. A hearing on the issue will be held tomorrow on Capitol Hill. Videotapes show undercover investigators from the Government Accounting Office wandering unescorted through the halls of the FBI and the Pentagon.
SHAW: Israel's 22-year occupation of south Lebanon is over, but as Israel pulled out, it warned both Syria and Lebanon it will regard any attack as an act of war. Hezbollah guerrillas were quick to move in. Women danced with joy as guerrilla troops waved flags and shouted "death to Israel" at the departing soldiers.
A high-energy laser is being developed to help protect Israel's northern border against missile attacks from southern Lebanon. The United States Army plans to begin testing the laser this week. If the tests are successful, the laser could be in Israel by fall.
WOODRUFF: U.S. Airways and United Airlines are proposing an $11.6 billion deal to combine their companies. United is already the world's largest air carrier. If the merger is approved by stockholders and by U.S. regulators, it would make United more than twice the size of the next closest competitor.
SHAW: The parents of JonBenet Ramsey have taken a lie detector test and it shows they are telling the truth when they deny killing their 6-year-old daughter. John and Patricia Ramsey held a news conference to release the polygraph results. John Ramsey says they should never have had to prove their innocence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN RAMSEY, JONBENET'S FATHER: We've been forced through leaks, innuendoes, and allegations to try to defend ourselves in the court of public opinion. We have, as Lynn said, not one ounce of trust in the Boulder police and that is sad, I wish that we did. We gave them our trust when this horrible thing happened and they lost it by their actions that took place in the beginning and that continue even through today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: The Boulder police say this: they will not accept the test results unless the polygraph is conducted by the FBI.
When INSIDE POLITICS returns, big money and barbecue. A look at the DNC's annual fund-raising gala.
WOODRUFF: Organized labor very much against this measure that would, as we say, bring -- instead of having to vote annually on the shape of trade relations between the United States and China, this would provide for permanent normal trade relations, as it's called, and would provide for U.S. access to Chinese markets.
CNN's Jonathan Karl is on Capitol Hill. He has been covering the story.
Jonathan, they're over the top.
KARL: They're over the top. This all along anticipated to be one of the closest votes, something that would be unpredictable until the last minute. We have been told going into the vote, at least last week, this may be a single-vote margin, but as you can see, it's a relatively comfortable margin, the Republicans getting far in excess of the 150 votes they had set as their target, and Democrats of course had set 70 vote as their target, both apparently doing better than expected, with this vote passing with a pretty commanding lead.
Of course both the White House and the Republican leadership worked very hard together on this issue, working to do this, and there really wasn't much on the opposition to promise those last wavering undecided lawmakers. The White House and the Republican leadership were able to pass out various favors. There was a lot of horse trading in the final days here. They had the power to offer projects in home districts, to offer waivers on various studies, but those who were against this trade pact didn't really have much to offer in return.
SHAW: OK, John Karl, on the Hill, please stand by.
And downtown to the White House and our senior White House correspondent John King -- John.
KING: Bernie, this victory important to the president for a number of reasons, and we expect to hear him outline them in person in just a few moments in the Rose Garden here at the White House. From an international policy standpoint, the president has said this is the most important vote that Congress takes this year. He himself told aides he regrets walk away from the earlier agreement with China he had on the WTO issue a few years back. The president hoping in his final months to put U.S.-China relations on an improved track.
Also important, though, for domestic political reasons, even though the Republican leadership, as Jonathan Karl just mentioned, work very closely with the president on this bill, the White House was well aware that had the president lost, especially after saying this was the key vote of this Congress, that there would have been a rush of Republicans to label him a lame duck. That was the argument the White House used as it tried to sway those final undecided Democrats, saying that if you want the president to help you in the budget fight over the patients' bill of rights, over education spending, over environmental programs, you better stand with the president now so that he is not weakened by a defeat on this vote. Obviously, this will be a victory for the president. The question now, will more bipartisanship follow? Or will they go back into election year budget battles -- Bernie.
SHAW: OK, John King -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: John, it's Judy. We see right now the Democratic vote, 69 -- the Democrats had promised they were going to produce 70 votes at least. The Republicans supposed to come up with 150. They've clearly gone over the mark in terms of what they were pledging to put into this. What does it say how hard it was for the Democrats to come up with those votes?
KING; Well, if you go to the African Caribbean trade bill that came out of the Congress last week, two weeks ago, but it had been six years prior to that before major trade legislation came out of the Congress. Back then, the Democrats got roughly 40 votes, so the president and his advisers will argue they have made some progress within the Democratic Party. But obviously trade still a very divisive issue within the party. We will see the president at this Democratic fund-raising gala tonight. Most union leaders won't go in person because they're so angry at administration for pushing this issue at this time.
As the vote unfolded today, we're told the president had a list, a final list, of about 10 undecided Democrats. The White House had promises from a few lawmakers who had voted no today that had the White House needed their votes, they would have been there. Those members preferring to vote no because of the labor support, the labor strength back in their home districts.
SHAW: Jonathan Karl, on the Hill, a question: We know the Republicans control the House by the barest, barest of votes, actually six vote. House Whip Tom DeLay said he wanted more than 150 votes to give Republicans cover so that no one could be accused this fall, in competitive races, can be accused of giving the one vote, having cast the one vote that pushed this bill over the top. But right now, according to our vote as we look at this, they have, what, 11 votes over the 150 DeLay promised to deliver. That's lots of cover.
KARL: Well, that's right, and Tom DeLay did not want to see this come down to 218-217 vote, where literally every person who voted in favor of it could have been targeted as the person that put the bill over the top. He wanted to have that cover so that nobody could be cast as the deciding vote.
Interestingly, on the Democratic side, Dick Gephardt went out early on, and said hey, vote the way you need to vote on this in your districts, Gephardt obviously the lead opponent of this trade pact, but he was not going to whip his members, as he said, to fellow Democrats; vote the way you need to vote in your districts. But his advice to members, to Democrats, was get out there early, to get out there early and announce their votes early, not wait until the last couple of days and have this intense pressure that we've seen build up on the final undecided Democrats.
SHAW: Watching as a final tally comes in, Tucker Carlson of the "Weekly Standard," Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine.
What do you make of this?
MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, everyone is happy. I mean, Democrats are now up to 72, and Tom DeLay only insisted on 70. And once he did that, actually a few weeks ago, you knew that it would pass, because Democrats can always deliver 70. If he'd said 90, that would have been a problem.
WOODRUFF: Are you saying this was really never in doubt or not recently in doubt?
M. CARLSON: I think not recently in doubt. Every year there is all this drama built up, and I wonder if it's lobbyists that are building up some of it, because every year it passes. Now this is the great crescendo, and it's over, and so there was a bit more drama. But when DeLay made that comment, it seemed to me that at that point, we knew.
SHAW: Tucker, what about a point that Stu Rothenberg made with Judy a short while ago, that each of these members on this floor, Republican or Democrat, wants to show that they can do something, that this is the do-something Congress before they go out to campaign?
TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think that's probably true, and It is a pretty uncomfortable issue to come up in an election year. I guess I wonder what Ralph Nader will make of the AFL-CIO endorsement. I hope he gets after this. It really puts labor in a terrible position, having to go out there and support Gore after this underscores Labor's weakness, but I mean, they are sort of running, not necessarily for the good, but against the tide of history. I mean, it's striking how old-fashioned Gephardt and Bonior and some of the more old-line Democrats look when they rail against globalization. And they may be right, incidentally.
But it's interesting how Clinton has helped consensus that was already changing: The globalization is good, and he and other big business Democrats are natural allies of Republicans. It's very striking, it's hard to remember he was impeached, you know, a couple years ago. Weird.
WOODRUFF: But Margaret, what about the argument that organized labor makes, that jobs are going to be lost, that China -- I mean, there are different people making the arguments -- China's human rights record should not be rewarded by this?
M. CARLSON: It shouldn't be, but life is unfair. You know, on both sides, the agreement isn't going to do what either side says it's going to do, you know, big-business Democrats who want to trade above all else. It's not going to create democracy in China and open up markets, and everybody's going to be wearing Nike tennis shoes and suddenly democracy blossoms, and it's not going to kill as many jobs as labor says on the other side.
The problem, you know, for the labor movement is that the jobs that are created, and there probably will be some kind of net gain, are not going to go to their members, and each time there's a trade agreement, labor gets promised, oh, we'll look after you, but then it gets passed and then they don't get looked after and it probably won't happen this time either.
SHAW: Tucker, has Bill Clinton put another notch in his presidential legacy?
T. CARLSON: I think he probably has. I mean, he'll certainly say he has. I mean, he's claimed notches for less, as far as I remember. But I have to say -- I mean, it's interesting, one of the arguments that the -- that supporters of this have been making is that it will make China more free and that it will make it less dangerous.
And so, the measure of that really will be, is China freer two years from now, are they going to stop arresting religious minorities, and are they any less bellicose toward Taiwan? If they're still, you know, lobbing missiles over two years after trade is completely free, then I think that is going to have to count against this.
SHAW: But what about the two provisions in this just-passed legislation meant to placate critics of the bill? One, the establishment of the U.S. Human Rights Commission; and, two, the protection against surges of imports from China?
T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, I -- you know, they're meant to help. I mean, I think it's -- I do think it's interesting this idea that, you know, one of the votes was meant to make this provision that would end it if China attacks Taiwan I think was meant to embarrass supporters of it, you know, force them to vote sort of, you know, for attacking Taiwan or something like that.
I mean, these votes are always horribly, you know, complicated and back end ward. But, yes, it's a -- you know, it's a huge issue, will this make China more peaceful?
WOODRUFF: All right, we are looking -- Margaret, quickly, yes.
M. CARLSON: I was just going to say, when Congressman Levin, you know, came up with these side agreements, and he is very pro-labor, that along with only needing 70 votes, you know, made it I think pretty much a slam dunk.
WOODRUFF: All right, looking at those final numbers and it looks like House speaker -- let's listen to Speaker Hastert.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: On this question, the yeas are 237, the nays are 197. This bill is passed and without objection a motion to reconsider is laid on the table.
WOODRUFF: House Speaker Dennis Hastert affirming the vote in favor of China trade, permanent normal relations.
John King, at the White House, President Clinton isn't wasting any time.
KING: No, Judy, we expect the president in the Rose Garden in just a few minutes, he's over in the residence keeping tab of this vote, we are told. You were just discussing one key issue for the White House now, repairing relations within the party. The White House wants to move quickly on that front. The president will have a health care event tomorrow, he's invited Democratic leaders down. That will be the public face of the reconciliation effort.
We're told in private that the president will speak to key labor leaders and try to make the case to them that if they're angry, be angry at him, not at the vice president. The vice president was booed and hissed a little bit yesterday when he spoke to a union audience.
There is some concern here at the White House even though there are more than five months to Election Day, that it is the vice president who will suffer from a lack of enthusiasm among the labor rank and file because of this vote. If there is widespread dissatisfaction, we're told the president will make the case, this was his policy, he wanted to push it, and that if you are going to be mad at somebody at the White House, be mad at him.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, we'll come back to you as soon as the president's remarks do get under way.
We're going to take a break. Before we do, a quick look back at the vote total, 237 in favor, a 19-vote cushion, if you will. They needed 218. They got 237 for, 197 against.
We're going to take a break. INSIDE POLITICS, more coming back.
SHAW: The bill normalizing trade with China has passed.
To the Hill and correspondent Jonathan Karl. Jonathan, any surprising switches?
KARL: Well, what's most surprising about this vote is the margin. This was billed as the most important vote of this Congress, the White House had even suggested the most important vote in a decade. But what has happened here is that we have a 19-vote margin favor of permanent normal trade relations with China.
KARL: And now, Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House, is speaking.
HASTERT: I just want to say, you know, to Jim and to Phil and to Bill Archer and to Dave Dreier and Tom DeLay and all these people that helped make this bill possible, it was a long, hard work. But we had good bipartisan effort to make this bill work.
And you know, one of the things at the bottom line on this legislation is that the American people win. We win because what this legislation does is to give Americans a benefit that the Chinese already had, and that's lower trade barriers in China, the ability to have the rule of law and the ability to have intellectual property rights. That's very, very important.
I have to say thank you to all these gentlemen behind me. And I want to do a special thank you to two people who've really done a great job, I think, on this legislation. One is to Dave Dreier.
David, you've led this charge in the rules.
And to Phil Crane -- Phil.
REP. PHILIP CRANE (R), ILLINOIS: Oh, thank you, thank you very much.
REP. BILL ARCHER (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful day and I'm so proud that the Congress, on a bipartisan basis, kept us moving into the next millennium in a way where we are not isolationist, where we extend the hand of trade, where we take advantage of open markets. We must continue to work to open markets around the world, and that's what this does.
That's good for America. It's good for America's families. It's good for our workers. It's good for our businesses. It's good for our farmers.
But perhaps most importantly, is that by extending the hand of trade, we also extend more. We extend what America is all about. And freedom will seep into China, maybe not overnight, but over the years, so that we will see a chance...
SHAW: Bill Archer of the Ways and Means Committee, predicting, hoping that freedom will seep into China.
Jon Karl on the Hill, clearly the Republicans were primed for this. You've got the speaker of the House opening a fortune cookie and unfolding the good news, and actually munching on the cookie as the news conference got under way.
KARL: Well, clearly, a big victory for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, probably perhaps the biggest victory yet of his speakership. And they knew it was coming. Republicans have felt good about this for about a week or so, really felt they had the votes.
They had set 150 votes as their target. They went far in excess of that: big victory for Speaker Hastert as a big victory for the White House, getting more than the 70 Democratic votes they had set as their target.
But also a major defeat for organized labor and their prime advocates up here on the Hill, David Bonior, the Democratic whip, and of course, Dick Gephardt, the minority leader.
Now, what's interesting, though, is although organized labor had worked very hard to defeat this and set this as a top priority this year, we have something else going on tonight, and that's the big DNC Democratic National Committee gala here in town. They're raising $25 million, a record gala, and organized labor, a very big part of that. This is an event that is headlined by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the two people on the Democratic side that led the charge for passing PNTR, permanent trade relations with China.
So what's interesting is you have 10 labor unions that are giving $500,000 or more at that event tonight.
And now Tom DeLay is speaking at the House Gallery.
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: ... rights in China, this is a great support of those that are fighting for human rights in China.
I was -- I was so impressed with the Christians -- Chinese national Christians that came over here from China to talk to us about the fact that they never would have become Christians if they did not have -- if they had not worked for an American company.
Those kinds of things start happening in China, and it's very, very exciting.
This is the highest vote that we've had on free trade in my career -- that I know of. We haven't gone back further than that. This is a huge vote. The Republican Party stands for the preservation of economic and political freedom, and our Republican Congress is proud of the bipartisan coalition that we had fashioned to pass this critical legislation.
We have waged an intense battle in support of an important principle, and that is freedom. And the people of China and the citizens of the United States will benefit enormously as a result.
With the passage of PNTR, the forces of reform in China are closer to receiving the tools that they will need to transform an oppressive Communist Party with its tyranny into a free market democracy.
And while achieving this very central goal will not, of course, come without an intense struggle, greater trade between our nations will allow the United States to confront directly a failed communist ideology with American democratic values. It's a confrontation of world views that we will win. And I'm looking forward to the future.
WOODRUFF: We're listening to House Republican whip Tom DeLay, and as we wait for comments from the White House and President Clinton, let's bring back the Carlsons, Tucker Carlson and Margaret Carlson.
Tucker, you know, we hear Tom DeLay saying there were a group of Christians who came from China -- in fact, there are also a group of Christian conservatives in this country and elsewhere who felt very strongly China should not be rewarded for its human rights record.
Gary Bauer talked about this during the campaign. We know where Pat Buchanan is coming from. He's very much against.
What happened to that argument? Did it just disappear here in the final days?
T. CARLSON: That's a great question. I'm not -- I'm not sure Pat Buchanan's still conservative. I mean, it's all sort of this confusing mix, but that's right. The magazine I work for, "The Weekly Standard," in fact, has been editorializing this -- against it repeatedly. And so you have these conservative Republicans sort of paired up with the AFL-CIO and Ralph Nader and Pat. I mean, it's all very odd.
And then you have Tom DeLay, archenemy of communism, saying, well, I have an idea. You know, let's have a free trade agreement with a repressive communist country. I mean, it's very odd.
But I think part of what Mr. DeLay said was disingenuous. I mean, the fact is that Christians are still are repressed in China, and I'm not certain, you know, who the Christians are he met with. I'd like to know exactly who they work for. But it's odd, very.
M. CARLSON: Making it even more confusing is that the dissidents were split. There were some dissidents who said it's awful, you can't do it.
WOODRUFF: Chinese dissidents.
M. CARLSON: Chinese dissidents. Yes. So everyone was all over the map here.
WOODRUFF: It -- it just strikes me that it's one of those arguments that we were hearing very vociferously for a matter of weeks and then suddenly it's -- it's silent. We're not hearing that argument so much anymore.
M. CARLSON: Well, I think it faded, because labor was so active that that argument faded in the light of labor's activism.
SHAW: At the risk of sounding cynical, is this a onetime burst of bipartisanship on the Hill?
M. CARLSON: Yes.
SHAW: Or is this...
M. CARLSON: I don't know if Tucker agrees or not.
T. CARLSON: Oh, I don't think so. I mean, the fact...
SHAW: I mean, they're getting ready to go out...
T. CARLSON: What's striking to me is how nobody apart from cranks, you know, like full-time labor organizer types or Ralph Nader, or as we said, a couple of, you know, real right-wing people, ever stands up and says, wait a minute, maybe business shouldn't be writing American foreign policy.
I mean, there is this weird consensus on both sides, the mainstream of both parties that actually business knows best. And so I think around that idea there will continue to be bipartisan compromise.
I think it's sort of creepy actually.
WOODRUFF: Why is that? Is that campaign contributions or much more high-minded argument?
M. CARLSON: Well, when it comes to trade, there's a trade policy, not a foreign policy. And anything that -- and you know, we say why is Tom DeLay with Bill Clinton on this? Well, Tom DeLay is hostile toward labor and pro-business, and the side that Clinton's on happens to be pro-business. And I think that certainly the new Democrat in Bill Clinton is, you know, favors labor -- I mean, favors business over labor. So, that's why that coalition is there.
SHAW: In all of this, what about this one fact, 1 billion people in this nation? Did the argument have resonance, that you cannot ignore a nation of 1-billion-plus people?
T. CARLSON: Well, yes, I mean, that was one of the key arguments. I think that probably the most Machiavellian argument was, you know, gee, if not us, then I don't know, the Austrians or the French, or you know, the Europeans. Somebody is going to be benefiting from trade with China, and it might as well be us. They're going to trade with the West, and so we might as well benefit from it.
WOODRUFF: All right. We're still waiting for comments from the White House and probably elsewhere. We're going to take a break. We'll be back with more coverage of this, in the aftermath of the china trade vote passing by a pretty large margin, 237 to 197, well above the number needed for passage. We'll be right back.
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