WASHINGTON – A Senate Democrat is making a longshot attempt to take away from President Bush the broad trade negotiating authority that Congress gave him three years ago.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (search), D-N.D., said Congress made a mistake in 2002 when it narrowly passed the "fast track" or trade promotion authority act (search) that gives the president the power to negotiate trade agreements that Congress must approve or disapprove but cannot amend.
Late Wednesday Dorgan introduced a resolution to turn down the president's request to extend that authority.
Dorgan said fast-track authority was responsible for problems with the Central American Free Trade Agreement (search) recently signed with the Dominican Republic and five Central American countries. He said the deal would lead to "U.S. jobs going overseas, as companies try to take advantage of low-wage labor in countries with no environmental controls."
The president in March formally requested a two-year extension of fast track, which is in effect through 2007 unless the House or the Senate rejects the extension by July 1.
Dorgan acknowledged that it will be difficult to gain a vote on his resolution because it first must be approved by the Finance Committee and there was no indication that the committee would agree to consider the issue.
Since 2002 Congress has agreed to free-trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Australia and Morocco that were negotiated under fast-track authority. A vote on the Central American agreement could come up this spring.