Rangel Hits Bush Administration On Free Trade Debate

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) argued that the Bush administration has failed to discuss the merits of the Colombia-U.S. free trade agreement with Congress, leading the House to delay a vote on it.

Rangel had joined other Democrats in delaying a vote on the agreement on Thursday. Rangel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued earlier in the week that that Bush's decision to send the deal to the House this week had showed a "disregard" toward Congress and "jeopardiz[ed] prospects for its passage."

Bush had sent it to Congress under "fast track" rules, which had required to Congress to consider it within 90 days. But the House Democrats' delay means that the vote is postponed indefinitely.

Rangel on CNBC Friday said that the Bush administration has taken the attitude that says, "I don't have to negotiate with you."

"It would seem to me that if you were trying to get something passed in the House of Representatives, you wouldn't confuse me with the facts as you see them," Rangel said. "You would say, 'What is the problem? What is the impediment?'"

Labor groups and both Democratic presidential candidates have opposed the free trade deal, saying that they're concerned about its effects on American workers. Democrats in the House have also called for greater protection in the deal for union workers in Colombia.

Rangel said that the bill's supporters have couched their support for it in terms of its effect on national security and Latin American relations.

"It's absolutely surprising, as I remind them, whether it's the secretary of commerce, the secretary -- every time they come, they want us to know the threat that Hu Chavez is, how we would violate the friendship that we have with these wonderful people -- and I love the Colombian people -- and that Castro is in on it," he said. "And so, it's a question of national defense."

More in News

Obama's approval hits 50 percent in poll

Read more »