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Relating to the Consideration of H.R. 5724, United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


Relating to the Consideration of H.R. 5724, United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlelady for yielding, and I commend her for her very distinguished leadership of the Rules Committee and for bringing this very important rule to the floor today.

Mr. Speaker, the reason we are here today is one I wish could have been avoided, and I think it is important to put it in context because I have heard our colleagues talk about the merits of the bill or talk about any precedent on rules, and I have heard them talk about different things. But I think it is important to know what brought us here today.

On Monday, I received a call from the President of the United States, always an honor to receive a call from the President. This is after months of our going back and forth with members of the cabinet and the rest about when and if they would send up the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The President informed me that he would be sending the bill over the next day.

I recommended against it. I said, Mr. President, you shouldn't send it for two reasons. If you send it and we take it up, it will lose. Now you think it is very important to pass a Colombia free trade agreement, and in the Congress we have people who share your view. And we have others who share your view that we should pass it as soon as we address the concerns of America's working people, and others who will never be for it. But let's talk about what the possibilities are for passing it, and those possibilities are greatly diminished if you send that bill to the Congress under these circumstances.

Apart from the fact that it would be a breach of protocol, and let's just talk about that. A successful trade agenda depends on joint partnership between the Congress and the administration, as was the case recently in the Peru Free Trade Agreement. Had the administration followed the established protocol of congressional consultation relating to the submission of any free trade agreement, we would not have to take this action today.

By his actions on Tuesday, the President abandoned the traditions of consultation that have governed past agreement. In fact, the action the House takes today is more in keeping with the spirit of the rules than the White House's move to force a vote.

But, as I said, just from a practical standpoint, Mr. President, you simply don't have the votes. And if we are to try to arrive at a place where the concerns of the American people are addressed, we need more time to do that.

I also said what I have said many times to the President. If we are going to be successful in passing a trade agreement, we have to first tell the Americans people that we have a positive economic agenda that addresses their aspirations, addresses their concerns about their economic security.

This bill's been around for a while, and matters have only gotten worse in our economy. The former Chair of the Fed has said we're in the throes of a recession. The current Chair of the Federal Reserve last week, the end of last week, testified to Congress that there's a possible recession.

Many people, I mean, the joblessness numbers of last week, again pointed to a steeper downturn in our economy.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, will the Speaker yield for some questions?

Ms. PELOSI. No. You control your time. With all due respect to the gentleman, I'll use mine.

The fact is, as I said to the President, many people in America now are concerned about their jobs. They're concerned about losing their homes. Most people won't, but most people are concerned about losing their living standard.

When the cost of groceries and gasoline and the cost of health care and education and other staples continues to go up, and the purchasing power of the income that people have is either stagnant or going down, they have concerns about their economic security.

So let's have a timetable for the American people. Let's have a timetable on our consideration of a trade bill that addresses the concerns and is compatible with the needs of America's working families. That is, I think, the only fair thing to do.

The President ignored those concerns and sent the bill over. I pledged to this body, as Speaker of the House, that at the appropriate time, if many of these concerns are addressed in terms of America's working families, that we can take up legislation for such a trade agreement.

Some have concerns about the content of the agreement. Others have concerns about the treatment of labor organizers in Colombia, and it's a real concern, and one admitted to by the administration and the Colombian Government. There are differences of opinion as to how this is changing, but let's see how we can work together to make that change.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I ask again if my distinguished California colleague would yield.

Ms. PELOSI. Having control of the time, I will retain the control of the time, Mr. Speaker.

The important point here is, whether it's the substance of the bill, whether it's the conditions in Colombia, they are to be, obviously, major considerations.

But what we're saying to the President, we can't do much about some of these things. We certainly can address the provisions in the bill. But I'm not here to talk about that now.

What we can do something about, what we haven't done enough about is to send a positive economic agenda forth. And these are not difficult. Most of what we're talking to the President about are part of what has passed this Congress in mostly an overwhelming bipartisan way.

Whether we're talking about rebuilding the infrastructure of America, whether we're talking about investments in an innovation agenda, our commitment to competitiveness to keep America number 1, and that innovation begins in the classroom, and we have to have a strong commitment to the education of our people, whether we're talking about tax credits for our energy bill which we passed here, which would immediately create jobs. No, if we don't do it we will lose jobs that exist now. Same thing with infrastructure. If we don't make those investments, our projects will have to discontinue. But many more are ready. Dirt is ready to fly. The projects are in the pipeline.

There is a way to create good-paying jobs right here in America. We've passed the legislation. The vehicles are there for us to do it. And at the same time, we have to address the concerns of those who have lost their jobs, whether it's unemployment insurance or summer jobs program for their children or other initiatives.

So this is nothing new. And, in fact, the whole idea that we were going into recession is nothing new to most families across America. It took a while for the President and his administration to accept that fact, and, when they did, we could talk. And when they did, we could talk, we could work together, as Mr. Boehner and I did, with the Secretary of the Treasury, to put together a stimulus package that had strong bipartisan support, and, as the President has said, has not gone into effect yet. And when it does, I know it will inject demand into the economy, create jobs and, I think, stimulate the economy.

But since we did that, matters have only become worse, necessitating the need for us to do more. And we certainly should do more for our economy. And we certainly should do more for our economy before we pass another trade agreement. It's all possible in the days that are before us.

But instead of having the President's timetable, we have the timetable of the House of Representatives, we have a timetable for America's working families.

And nothing that we are doing here now should be misconstrued in terms of our attitude toward Colombia. Colombia is our friend, is a neighbor in the hemisphere. The relationship between Colombia and the United States is an important one.

We have concerns about workers in Colombia, and we respect the leadership of President Uribe. And as I said to the Ambassador yesterday, I hope you will convey that message to the President, and when you do, I hope you will also tell him we congratulate him on his excellent representation in the United States in ambassador service here.

So this isn't about ending anything. It's about having a timetable that respects the concerns, the aspirations, the challenges faced by the American people. We are the people's House. Their timetable should be our timetable.

I urge our colleagues to support the rule.

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