Democrat Tanner endorses CAFTA

Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) has become the fifth House Democrat to endorse publicly the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). In a statement yesterday, Tanner said he was swayed by the potential benefits to national security and Tennessee farm exports.

“The United States should approve the Central America Free Trade Agreement to further encourage stable governments and productive economies, which will help tie those countries to the security interests of the United States,” Tanner said.

Tanner and a dozen other Democrats met with President Bush at the White House last week to discuss the agreement. Tanner is one of at least two Democrats who are expected to back the pact at a mock markup in the Ways and Means Committee today.

The Republican whip operation will shift into high gear today after the markup. Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) met with his whip team Thursday.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who has been closely involved with the whip effort, said yesterday, “The Republican numbers are coming along very nicely, but Democratic leaders on trade are key.”

Brady noted that Republicans were making the case to Democrats that they respected their views and help.

“The White House and a lot of us in Congress are trying to make the point that we respect and need the help of both parties,” he said. “If we haven’t shown that respect, we need to make up for it.”

Josephine Hearn