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FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, in a few minutes, I will ask the Senate to proceed to the consideration of S. 380. S. 380 extends the Andean Trade Preference Act. But first I would like to make a few comments about the importance of this trade preference act.

I am very aware that a lot is going on in the world and there is upheaval in the Middle East and there is a lot going on on both sides of the aisle on spending, and I am very aware of what has dominated the news and the attention of the Congress and the American people. I want to talk for a few minutes about the importance of the Andean Trade Preference Act and the need to reauthorize it.

I remind my colleagues that the Andean Trade Preference Act was first enacted by President George Herbert Walker Bush as a way to boost the licit economies of several Andean nations that were major producers of illegal drugs. Over the past two decades, this program has been supported by Democratic and Republican Presidents, it has been reauthorized by Democratic and Republican Congresses, and it has been widely recognized as a dramatic success--creating jobs for our workers, who can sell cheaper imports to American consumers as a result of these trade preferences, while also supporting the economic development of strategically important countries in our hemisphere.

One of these countries is Colombia. We have been rightly focused on other parts of the world over the past decade, but one of the untold success stories is Colombia's transformation from a failed state to a thriving democracy. It has been one of the world's great stories and one of the greatest bipartisan triumphs of U.S. foreign policy in recent memory.

Through the courage and perseverance of the Colombian people, the government and armed forces of Colombia took their country back from terrorists and drug traffickers and warlords who murdered the innocent indiscriminately and sowed our society with illegal drugs. We were with them every step of the way. It was President Bill Clinton, together with a Republican Congress, who first enacted Plan Colombia, and it was President George W. Bush, initially with a Democratic Congress, who expanded Plan Colombia.

Over the past decade, the U.S. taxpayer has invested more than $8 billion to help Colombia win its war, and it has been some of the best money we have ever spent on a national security program. Remember, the Plan Colombia and the war, where we helped the Colombians take back their country from FARC and the terrorists and drug dealers, were to prevent drugs from coming to the United States of America, where the demand was created.

So I am proud that as an act of generosity and help on the part of the American people, it was in America's national security interest to see Colombia not become a failed state, which it almost was 10 years ago.

The Andean Trade Preference Act has been a critical component of this effort. It has provided Colombia, along with other Andean nations, essential open access to our markets that has catalyzed their success. What is more, the vast majority of the products these countries are exporting to us Americans barely produce at all, such as cut flowers. So it provides a huge benefit for our partners, with little competition or displacement for our workers.

Unfortunately, after the long record of bipartisan support for this successful and vital program, the last Congress did something deeply shortsighted and terrible: Rather than extend the trade preferences, as previous Congresses have done, it made their passage and the passage of other vital free-trade measures conditional on the extension of a whole array of new government spending--spending our country cannot afford.

As a result, the Andean Trade Preference Act expired last weekend and with it the privileged market access that is so vital to key Andean partners, such as Colombia. What is even more terrible, we are failing Colombia at the worst of all possible times, as it is struggling to recover and rebuild from massive flooding. I saw with my own eyes the massive flooding, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. They have been devastated, and the estimated cost to rebuild is several billion dollars.

But it is even worse than that. Not only has this Congress denied Colombians vital trade preferences at a time when their country is literally underwater, it has done so amid the continued failure to ratify the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

This agreement mainly benefits us, leveling the playing field for U.S. workers seeking access to Colombian markets.

But the signal of strategic commitment that it sends to Colombia can't be understated. By failing for 5 straight years now to pass a Colombia Free Trade Agreement, we are sending the opposite signal--that the United States is an unreliable and untrustworthy ally and that we seem to be incapable of rising above our own domestic political differences to consolidate our strategic partnership with one of our best friends in the world. It is sad.

No trade agreement during a time of great need due to a natural disaster, and how have the Congress and the administration responded? By failing to extend critical trade preferences for Colombia and our other Andean friends. We have kicked an ally while they are down and right when they need us most. Colombian officials tell me that without these trade preferences, their cut flower industry, which is one of the pillars of the Colombian economy, could contract by 15 to 20 percent in the coming weeks.

Now is the time to right this wrong. Now is the time to come together and extend the Trade Preference Act--by itself, on its own, and on its merits, just as Congresses before us have done. This legislation will do that. It will extend the privileged market access for our Andean friends until November 30 of next year. After we have invested so much in the success of the Andean region--investments that have earned us enormous goodwill and gratitude--why would we do anything to call our friendship into question? Why would we do anything that harms our allies? We cannot afford not to extend the Andean Trade Preference Act.

Let me also explain something to my colleagues. Before we went out of session last year, we made an agreement--and the Senator from Ohio, whom I see on the floor and who was one of the negotiators--that the trade adjustment assistance would be extended along with the Andean Trade Preference Act. The interesting thing about that extension is that it was not only an extension of the trade adjustment assistance as it was prior to the stimulus being passed, but also after. In other words, the trade adjustment assistance had gone up to some $2.6 billion, an additional $620 million for the remainder of this year. So it is in existence today, with $1 billion being spent on various programs. There is a GAO study that severely questions these multiple employment and training programs that are in existence today. They talk about the $18 billion being spent to administer 47 programs, an increase of 3 programs and roughly $5 billion since their last reporting.

What I am asking my colleagues who are supportive of the TAA is to agree to an extension of the Andean Trade Preference Agreement in return for our extension, our agreement to extend the trade adjustment assistance at the level of pre-stimulus. The stimulus was supposedly advertised as a one-shot deal. So why should we increase trade adjustment assistance in keeping with the enactment of the stimulus package? Now that the stimulus is supposedly over, can't we go back to previous levels of adjustment assistance?

I wish to make the record perfectly clear: This proposal of killing off trade adjustment assistance is in being as we speak today. We are saying we don't want the increase that was put in in 2009 as a result of the stimulus package.

Things are not great in our Western Hemisphere. We have a return of Danny Ortega in Nicaragua, we have Hugo Chavez continuing to consolidate power in Venezuela. We are seeing other nations in the region--and I won't enumerate them--that are becoming more and more dictatorial, totalitarian, and anti-American. So when we don't extend the ATPA, the signal to our friends and our adversaries in the region is very clear: You can't count on the United States of America to keep its solemn agreements negotiated and ratified by Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses.

I understand and appreciate and respect the Senator from Ohio, the Senator from Pennsylvania, and the Senator from Montana and their dedication to trade adjustment assistance. I am not seeking to end TAA. We are seeking to leave TAA at its previous level prior to the stimulus package being enacted. I don't understand why that shouldn't be sufficient in this era of huge deficits and debts.

I ask my friend from Ohio and those on the other side of the aisle who oppose a long-term extension--who oppose the Andean Trade Preference Act being extended--that we would agree to the extension of the trade adjustment assistance only at the level where it was before. Isn't that reasonable? Isn't that reasonable? It is $1 billion a year. It is $1 billion a year that is going to be allowed under the TAA.

Again, I understand there are a lot of things going on in the world. There are a lot of things going on domestically. There are a lot of things happening, but shouldn't we pay attention to our friends, our little friends who helped us so much in this war on drugs? If they had become, as they nearly did 10 years ago, a failed state, the consequences to the United States national security would have been profound. We are watching the violence in Mexico and we are alarmed by it, including the death of a DEA agent and the wounding of another one in the last couple of days in Mexico. My friends, that was a Sunday school picnic compared to what was going on in Colombia before we helped them with the Andean Trade Preference Agreement. I urge my colleagues to please consider at least a short-term extension of this ATPA, along with the basic TAA, at least to give these people an opportunity to recover from the devastation they have experienced.

I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S. 380. I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and that any statements relating to the bill be printed in the Record.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Hagan). Is there objection?

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Madam President, reserving the right to object, I know the Presiding Officer, the junior Senator from North Carolina, wants to be part of the TAA extension. I appreciate that, as do Senator Casey and Senator McCain and Senator Baucus.

My problem is this: I want to work with Senator McCain on this. I want to make this work. I want to extend the Andean trade preferences. He and I worked this agreement out with Senator Kyl and Senator Casey and others at the end of last year, in the last 2 hours of the session. I think that was the time line. Right at the end, we were able to extend all of this, but only for 6 weeks. He wanted longer, I wanted longer, but we couldn't get an agreement.

Senator McCain asked, is it not reasonable to extend the old TAA. The old TAA started 50 years ago. It was a great program. It was bipartisan. It has always been that. But it is not reasonable to do only the old TAA. There have been 150,000 workers who are eligible since the Recovery Act passed for the expanded TAA because they happen to have lost their jobs to countries we didn't have a free trade agreement with. They were not eligible under the old one, but they are eligible under the new one. Or they happen to be service workers. They are eligible under the new one but not under the old one.

It is a situation where because of things we do in this body--we pass a trade agreement, people lose their jobs. We have an obligation--I know people are focused on government spending, as we should be, and on the deficit, as we should be, but this is an action of the House and Senate. We pass tax policy here. We give tax breaks to companies that move overseas. Why don't we pay for this TAA with something like that? We could always do that.

The point is there are so many workers in this country who have lost their jobs because of trade agreements, because of tax law and trade law. They should be eligible for getting some assistance so they can get retrained and go back to work. We all know people in our States--Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, West Virginia, and Ohio--where that has happened.

The other thing we need to extend is the health care tax credit. We know that literally thousands of workers--I can give you some examples quickly: 400 Americans in Arizona, 1,400 Americans in Georgia--mostly Delta workers--6,800 Americans in Michigan, 9,200 Americans in Ohio, 68,000 Americans scattered around every other State in this country--because of the Recovery Act and the expansion of the health care tax credit, they would be able to continue to get their health care.

So with reluctance--I don't want to do this, because I want to see the Andean trade preferences extended--I am going to object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, all I can say to my friend from Ohio is we have deep sympathy for the plight of the citizens of Ohio who have been very hard hit in this economic disaster that this Nation has undergone in the last couple of years. There has been enormous loss of jobs and income on the part of the citizens of Ohio, and particularly that part of the country. I would also argue that my home State of Arizona has suffered rather dramatically as well.

But does it make sense to dramatically increase any program at this particular time? We are already spending $1 billion a year. That seems to be a significant amount of money.

I would also point out that a lot of these training programs have drawn scrutiny and even criticism from the GAO. This criticism has been kind of telling. It says:

In fiscal year 2009, nine Federal agencies spent $18 billion to administer 47 programs, an increase of three programs and roughly $5 billion since they reported in 2003.

So I don't think we could see tangible benefits from the trade adjustment assistance. But we are willing, I say to my friend from Ohio, to continue to support a $1 billion program per year for trade adjustment assistance when we are slashing vital programs that people know are far--we are all having to make sacrifices. Can't my friend from Ohio be satisfied with $1 billion for trade adjustment assistance?

Again, I wish to say, we do have problems in our hemisphere. We do have Brazilians striking out on a new and independent course. We have Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, we have these countries that are looking on us as either an adversary or an enemy, depending on which country we are talking about. So the message we are sending by not at least extending this agreement I think is a terrible one, and I ask my friend from Ohio to reconsider.

I also wish to say this: The President of the United States and the White House should be weighing in on this. The President of the United States has said he wants the Korea Free Trade Agreement and we want the ``Colombian and Panamanian Free Trade Agreement'' as well.

Well, if they want that, should they not want to extend the trade preferences that were negotiated by President Bush and extended under President Clinton? Should we not want that--and Republican and Democratic Congresses alike?

I have taken too much time of this body. Again, I ask my friend from Ohio to reconsider, negotiate, do whatever we can before we continue to send this terrible message to our friends in the hemisphere who have literally laid down their lives in the war against drugs, which we have felt is in vital U.S. national security interests.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent for 2 minutes to make a motion.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. I have great respect for the senior Senator from Arizona. I wish to find a way--and I will give some specific names of people who have benefited from the expansion of TAA. I brought in a stack of literally 500 letters from Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio--the States hit the hardest--some 300 people in Arizona, and others who have benefited from the expansion of the health care tax revenue and TAA.

I offered to Senator McCain--other than the fact that it costs more money, and I don't dispute that--that if we can work on specific problems they have with individual parts of the expansion and if there is a way of working out any kind of language they don't like, I am happy to do that. I am going to offer a unanimous consent request on TAA and tax credits and on Andean. The reason I objected is I cannot walk off this floor having helped the workers in Ecuador and Colombia but not the workers in Toledo and Cleveland and Phoenix and Charleston, WV. That is why I will make this request--which will help in every case--on the Andean trade preference, TAA, and health care tax credit.

I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar No. 11, H.R. 359, that a Brown of Ohio substitute amendment, also on behalf of Senators Hagan and Casey, which provides an 18-month extension for trade adjustment assistance, and the Andean Trade Preferences Act be agreed to, the bill, as amended, be read the third time and passed, and the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. McCAIN. Reserving the right to object, I certainly didn't want to get too much into this debate because the fact is that GAO concluded:

Based on our survey of agency officials, we determined that only 5 of the 47 programs have had impact studies that assess whether the program is responsible for improving employment outcomes. The five impact studies generally found that the effects of participation were not consistent across programs, with only some demonstrating positive impacts that tended to be small, inconclusive or restricted to short-term impacts.

We are talking about an additional $1.6 billion. We can't do that. Why in the world the Senator from Ohio and other Senators from his part of the country were satisfied for years with a TAA of roughly $1 billion and now are not satisfied with that in these times of economic difficulties confounds me. It is a sad day for our friends in Colombia and the Andes who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. I object.


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