Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel issued the following statement today on the announcement by President Bush that he will send the Colombia Tree Trade Agreement to Congress tomorrow:
"President Bush's statement today regarding his unprecedented decision to send a free trade agreement to Congress without following established protocols of Congressional consultation is counter-productive, jeopardizing prospects for its passage. Under present circumstances, we cannot support the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
"A successful trade agenda depends on a joint partnership between the Congress and the Administration, where consultation is the norm, not the exception. Constitutionally, Congress is responsible for regulating international commerce. The President's disregard toward a co-equal branch of government serves only to work against the long-term interests of the United States and Colombia.
"The President's apparent disregard for the economic insecurity faced by millions of struggling American families highlights a misplaced set of priorities. Due to Republican intransigence, trade adjustment assistance to those who have lost their jobs due to trade lapsed last year and Republicans have blocked efforts to extend and expand these initiatives this year. Similarly, Democratic efforts to extend unemployment benefits, help those threatened by foreclosure, and strengthen health care for America's children have been rebuffed by President Bush.
"When congressional leaders meet with the President on Wednesday, we will urge him to focus on the economy and work in a bipartisan manner on a new stimulus package to help America's working families. We must work together to restore consumer, market, and worker confidence.
"House Democrats are committed to supporting Colombia and the efforts of President Uribe. We have twice passed the Andean Trade Preference Extension Act, providing economic development alternatives to illicit narcotics production and trafficking to create a more stable environment in Colombia. We have provided additional funds to support Colombia's efforts to strengthen its judicial system and stem violence against labor leaders. President Bush's efforts to create a false sense of urgency have no merit and ultimately ignore these valuable contributions to democracy in Colombia.
"Despite progress made by President Uribe, Colombia remains a dangerous place to be a labor activist, and for those who commit these acts of violence, there is little threat of prosecution or punishment. Sustained progress on the ground remains a prerequisite for our support."