Tom Daschle continues obstructing Trade Promotion Authority, as America loses leadership on issue.

Fourth in a series of five

WASHINGTON – Despite the efforts of President Bush earlier in the month urging Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to bring the stalled Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill to a vote in the U.S. Senate by April 22nd, the date has come and gone without consideration of the bill\’s urgency.

The bill, which passed in the House last November, has been stalled in the Senate with no sign of budging from Sen. Daschle.

The foot-dragging tactics by Daschle come as no surprise. Daschle is currently holding up legislation that has passed the House on tax relief, energy policy, pension reform, the president\’ s faith-based initiative, human cloning, and has refused to hold hearings on 22 of the president\’s judicial nominations (there are currently 94 vacancies in the federal judiciary, causing a tremendous backlog).

But perhaps most urgent is the issue of trade and commerce, a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. Trade Promotion Authority would give the president the power to negotiate trade treaties with other countries, pending an up-or-down vote by Congress. Congress would still have the power to reject the negotiations, but not amend them, ensuring that negotiators will strike agreements that have broad political and public support. The last five American presidents have been granted TPA, formerly known as "fast track." Without this power, the president is all but powerless to pursue bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, like the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Of some 131 international trade agreements, America is party to only three.

As recently as yesterday, the president was still trying to get the message to Daschle that this bill will increase the peace process with all other countries. In a White House meeting Tuesday with Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Bush said such countries need "steadfast support," going on to say the administration would seek a free trade agreement with the country and asked the Senate to facilitate it by enacting the Trade Promotion Authority.

"Daschle\’s inactive tactics on trade and the large number of bills that have passed the House, amount to first-rate obstructionism," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington. "Taxes are tariffs, but free trade benefits all parties involved. Passing TPA is especially crucial for foreign policy, while we are dealing with an ongoing peace process amongst countries. Free trade promotes freedom and democracy, but Tom Daschle is giving Americans reason to believe he is concerned with little more than the well-being of his liberal Washington policies."

Others in the series: