President Clinton got a wake-up call from House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who said Tuesday that the proposed fast-track authority for negotiating new trade agreements was “in very deep trouble.”
Gingrich’s assessment came as Clinton stepped up his lobbying effort and his trade representatives generated their first congressional momentum in the effort to assemble a consensus supporting the bill.
The Senate Finance Committee was scheduled to approve a bipartisan bill today that would grant Clinton the fast-track authority, and a House Ways and Means subcommittee, which heard labor, business, environmentalist and administration witnesses Tuesday, plans to produce its version Oct. 8.
The fast-track bill sets the guidelines for actual trade agreements and requires consultation between Congress and negotiators. Congress can accept or reject the agreements, but cannot amend them.
But in a speech at the National Press Club, Gingrich said: “I do not today see the votes in the House to pass fast track. I believe the legislation is in very deep trouble.”
Five hours later, Clinton met at the White House with a group of undecided Democrats, including Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who has been targeted by the AFL-CIO’s $1 million-a-week advertising blitz. Lowey is a critical vote. She voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement four years ago. Vice President Al Gore telephoned her Monday night.