Dems protest as House begins considering FTA passage

"Nearly everyone I talk to… believes that the United States stands for human rights, that we stand for justice," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said of the Colombia deal. "And I'd like to believe that's always true, but not if we pass this FTA."

While Republicans have downplayed union violence, McGovern said 150 union members have been killed over the last three years. "If 150 CEOs had been assassinated over the past three years, would you still think Colombia is a good place to invest?" he asked.

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Democrat arguments against the other agreements are somewhat undercut by Democrat support for those agreements. For example, House Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) is a co-sponsor of the Korea agreement, after he pushed for improvements to that agreement's auto provisions.

Levin spoke briefly on Tuesday evening, and concluded by saying he would oppose the Colombia FTA, but did not mention the others.

Still, some argued more generally against all three trade agreements. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) argued against passing "NAFTA-style" trade agreements, and House Rule Committee Ranking Member Louise Slaughter (D-NY) argued that trade agreements only protect companies, not workers.

"They were designed to protect multinational corporations operating in the towers of New York, London and Shanghai," she said. "These companies could care less whether goods are made as long as they're allowed to sell them all over the world."

Republicans have said the trade agreements would mostly open up the three countries to U.S. exports, since U.S. trade barriers are among the lowest in the world. Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said the delay of these deals for several years has also made it harder for U.S. trading partners to trust the U.S. commitment to open trade.

"It is utterly shameful… that we have forced three close friends of the United States… to wait for four long years," Dreier said. "It is shameful that we have forced these friends and allies, who negotiated in good faith with us, for these agreements to wait as long as they have."

Arguments from Democrats are not expected to be an obstacle to passage in both the House and Senate, as passage of the FTAs is tied to a fourth bill that would reauthorize duty-free access for scores of countries, and reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Democrats support both of those reauthorizations, and several are expected to support the FTAs on Wednesday.

Passage of all four bills was worked out in an agreement with the White House. The House is expected to approve the rule for all four bills Tuesday night.