Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has asked lobbyists hoping to pass the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) to redouble their efforts to press members of the New Democrat Coalition to support it.
CAFTA, the pact among the United States and six other nations, remains in jeopardy despite its passage in the Senate earlier this month. The sugar lobby has persuaded some Republicans who represent sugar farmers to oppose CAFTA, and others from manufacturing districts have also voiced their opposition.
Presumably falling short in its vote count with two weeks left before the August recess begins, the House GOP whip’s office turned to its K Street allies to try to persuade Democrats to vote in favor of CAFTA.
“The Republican leadership will not schedule CAFTA for a floor vote without significant bipartisan support,” Sam Geduldig, Blunt’s liaison to K Street, told the lobbyists in an e-mail sent last Tuesday. It was sent to remind staffers and GOP lawmakers about a meeting organized by Blunt and the House GOP conference to discuss CAFTA.
Geduldig concluded the e-mail with a request to “forward any Member intelligence to [him.]”
Burson Taylor, Blunt’s spokeswoman, said, “Trade votes never pass without Democrats. [Blunt] wants to see the Democrats who run on pro-trade platforms stay pro-trade when it counts.”
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the party’s centrist outfit, and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), support CAFTA, but many of the 42 members of the New Democrat Coalition in the House, including its leaders, Reps. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Artur Davis (Ala.) and Adam Smith (Wash.), have said they will oppose CAFTA despite previous support for free-trade agreements.
An aide to a centrist Democrat said Blunt’s effort is too little, too late.
“We wanted to be involved in discussions to talk about labor standards and work provisions,” he said. “Now a week before the vote we’re being asked to support something. This lobbying plan is indicative of the whole process. Don’t include them, and ask for their support.”
He added that his boss was “disappointed that we were not involved in discussions to form policy for a bill that could get broad bipartisan support” on the House floor.