Democratic Revolt Brewing Over Peru Deal

You would probably have expected to see a revolt of the Democratic rank-and-file against its leadership over, say, telecom immunity, the Mukasey nomination, the continued funding of the Iraq war, or any number of other high-profile hot-button issues with Constitutional ramifications that endanger our democracy. You would have expected that, but you’d be wrong. In fact, the revolt I’ve referenced before is no longer simmering below the surface, it’s out in the open according to The Hill, and the precipitating factor isn’t any of those but the pending trade deal with Peru.

Many freshman Democratic lawmakers are expected to oppose a free trade deal with Peru this week despite pressure from House leaders.

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?There?s been a lot of pressure on the rank and file to support this deal,? said Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who opposes the deal. ?It?s disappointing that Democratic leaders are not in sync with the American people.?

Fearful that trade agreements will further add to a poisonous political environment ? like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was passed before the GOP routed the Democrats in the 1994 midterm election ? some Democrats are furious they are being forced to vote on the measure.

?We have a base that does not think we?re getting enough done. If we give them another dose of NAFTA ? I?m left to wonder what [that does],? freshman Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) said in a phone interview.

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The Ways and Means panel approved the legislation last week by a 39-0 margin, and the Senate Finance Committee signaled its support last month by voice vote.

Freshman lawmakers, however, have been skeptical all year.

Swept into office last year on a wave of voter disgust over the Iraq war and Republican corruption, many Democratic candidates campaigned against enacting more free trade agreements last year.

Reps. Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), John Yarmuth (Ky.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Charlie Wilson (Ohio) and Zack Space (Ohio) ran anti-trade advertisements to distinguish themselves from their GOP opponents, according to a report by Public Citizen?s Global Trade Watch, a liberal government watchdog group.

The freshmen, at least, are hearing the roar of frustration the leadership is ignoring in order to meet with lobbyists and corporate fundraisers. There seems to be a mix of pragmatists who see their careers passing before their eyes if they vote for the Bush trade pacts along with real progressives who see the deals for the corporate sell-outs they are and are against them on principle. Between the two groups we’re talking about a strong minority here, and if their rebellion attracts some seasoned pols just as worried about their futures or just as unhappy about Democratic capitulation to the Bushies, it could swell to a majority.

This could be the beginning of real problems for Pelosi & Co. Up to now the R&F has pretty much kept its mouth shut, held its nose, and voted the way the leadership told them to vote. But the toothpaste is out of the tube now that they’re talking publicly. Anything could happen if disappointment at the Donkey’s performance as the majority is as deep and wide as I suspect it is. Let the dissenters win this one, and all bets are off.

Keep thy fingers crossed.

One Response to “Democratic Revolt Brewing Over Peru Deal”

  1. Laura says:

    …crossing fingers…

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