CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL|
By Karin Fischer, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Bucking House Republican leadership and the Republican
president, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted against expanding
presidential trade powers.
But the "no" votes by Capito and her two West Virginia colleagues were not
enough to defeat the fast track trade authority bill. It passed Thursday,
President George Bush had pushed hard for the legislation to strengthen his
hand in negotiating trade agreements, relenting little after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, taking the floor just
before the vote, said lawmakers should support Bush during wartime.
"This Congress will either support our president who is fighting a
courageous war on terrorism and redefining American world leadership or we
will undercut this president at the worst possible time," Hastert, R-Ill.,
Until the last moment, Capito had been an undecided vote on trade promotion
authority, a familiar position for the freshman legislator. As with other
controversial measures, Capito was lobbied heavily by both sides, including
personal phone calls from Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.
Capito said her vote was won by pleas from businesses and workers at home.
In a conversation shortly before the vote, Capito continued to return to a
recent visit to Spencer, where a B.F. Goodrich aerospace plant is scheduled
to close next year, putting 147 people out of work.
"I'm not opposed to trade," she said. "I just honestly feel these trade
policies could cost West Virginia jobs."
Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., called the legislation "a fast track to the
unemployment line for American workers."
His fellow Democrat, Alan Mollohan, said the timing of the legislation makes
it particularly unwelcome. "We've already sacrificed too many jobs on the
altar of free trade," he said. "With our economy struggling, we can't afford
to sacrifice any more."
Mollohan also is skeptical about giving Bush free rein to negotiate trade
bills, noting the administration's willingness to open American trade laws
to discussion at recent World Trade Organization meetings.
"Fast track," as the provision is called, takes away congressional ability
to amend trade agreements, restricting lawmakers to an up or down vote. That
is abdicating congressional authority and responsibility, Rahall said.
Republican leaders Thursday also brought up legislation reauthorizing trade
adjustment assistance in a last-minute attempt to attract Democrats and
wavering Republicans. It passed 420-3.
While she supported the trade adjustment assistance, Capito said it didn't
make her more amenable to fast track. Trade adjustment assistance, which
provides expanded benefits and worker retraining, doesn't help people like
the B.F. Goodrich workers in Spencer. Roane County has an unemployment rate
of 9.5 percent.
"All the training in the world is not going to replace those jobs and those
benefits," she said.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Tom Daschle,
D- W.Va., has not said he will take up the bill. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.,
opposes fast track, while Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is undecided.
Writer Karin Fischer can be reached at (202) 662-8732.
Words from Washington - "West Virginia Jobs Come First" (From Congresswoman Capito's weekly column)
By: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Last month, I traveled to Spencer, in Roane County. A BF Goodrich plant
there is closing its doors, and soon, approximately 150 people will be
without a job. BF Goodrich, which makes rubber slides for airplanes, was
forced to severely cut its production with the continuing decline of the
Unfortunately, the Goodrich plant workers in Spencer are not the only ones
suffering. They are the tip of the iceberg in this post-terrorist economy.
And as I walked through the Goodrich plant and talked with the employees, I
became even more convicted of my job as a Congresswoman to vote to protect
and strengthen West Virginia jobs.
This past week, Congress voted on trade legislation called Trade Promotion
Authority, also know as "Fast Track." The plan, sponsored by the Republican
leadership, would allow President Bush to negotiate trade agreements with
other countries and take away Congress' ability to make any changes to the
As I considered this plan to renew the President's trade promotion
authority, I was left with one fundamental question: what vote would
strengthen and keep the greatest number of jobs in West Virginia?
After listening to many of my constituents, it has become clear that this
plan is not in the best interest of West Virginians, our jobs and our
So, I voted against this plan because I believed that it would take away
even more jobs from West Virginia. We've lost too many jobs already.
Now is the time to focus on helping the hard working men and women of West
Virginia. The families of farmers, manufacturers and steel workers and many
others have been hurt by trade policies of the past.
We need to ensure prosperous futures. I will continue to support increased
trade in our nation, but not at the expense of jobs in West Virginia.
For the hard-working men and women of West Virginia, there is no need to
take a look at the current economic statistics to know that times are tough.
The faces of America's workers should remind us to be careful as we continue
to make partnerships with other countries and other economies. These men
and women provide the heart and soul of this economy, and it is our duty to
protect their jobs, their livelihoods.
International trade directly affects the lives of many West Virginia
families. And as we move into the 21st century and craft our national trade
policies, we must never lose sight of the main goal, which is to keep West
Virginians and Americans working.