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Roll Call

The House : Trade Bill

May 29, 1986

A pugnacious, retaliatory trade bill designed to pry open overseas markets for American exports while safeguarding domestic industries and jobs against foreign competition that is seen as unfair was passed by the House and sent to the Senate on a vote of 295 for and 115 against.

The 458-page, 239-provision bill (HR 4800) diminishes a President's power to set trade policy, by requiring certain presidential actions against economic partners and strengthening the autonomy of the U.S. trade representative and the federal International Trade Commission at the expense of the chief executive.

House Democrats, who authored the bill, hailed it as a long-overdue "fair trade" measure that will make America more combative and competitive in the rough-and-tumble world economy. But President Reagan denounced it as shortsighted protectionism that could "plunge the world into a trade war," and other critics saw it as an election-year commercial as much as a serious economic document.

One of the bill's most provocative sections forces retaliation against Japan, Taiwan, West Germany and other economic powers who fail to reduce their trade surpluses over America by 10% annually. Another hotly disputed section broadens America's definition of unfair trade to include imports from workers not covered by internationally recognized labor standards such as collective bargaining and health and safety protections.

The bill also sets tough procedures for opening Japan and other markets to U.S. telecommunications ware, shortens by up to 40% the list of "sensitive" American products that need government licenses for sale abroad, and requires retaliatory action in "targeting" cases where a foreign government enhances the exports of a specific industry by subsidies and other aids.

Additionally, the legislation virtually requires U.S. intervention in international currency markets to make the dollar more competitive, makes it easier for American companies to gain protection from the International Trade Commission, converts trade adjustment assistance for unemployed workers to an automatic entitlement program, and authorizes more than $1 billion for purposes such as retraining dislocated American workers and helping U.S. exporters counter foreign subsidies.

Members voting yes favored the bill.

How They Voted Yea Nay No Vote Rep. Dreier (R) x Rep. Martinez (D) x Rep. Moorhead (R) x Rep. Roybal (D) x Rep. Torres (D) x

GOP Trade Plan

The Republican alternative to the Democratic majority's massive bill to overhaul and toughen government policy toward America's trading partners was rejected by the House on a vote of 145 for and 265 against.

The Democratic bill (above) later was passed and sent to the Senate. Called fair-trade legislation by its backers but protectionism by its critics, the bill is expected to be an issue in many of this year's congressional campaigns.

Political acrobatics were on display during two days of floor voting, as several dozen flip-flopping lawmakers supported this and other amendments to gut the Democrats' bill and then voted for the bill on final passage.

This vote on the Republican plan provided probably the sharpest indication to constituents of where their members stood on the issue, because it confronted lawmakers with a clear choice between the far-reaching Democratic legislation and a GOP approach more palatable to President Reagan and other free-trade advocates.

The GOP substitute retained the thrust of the Democratic legislation, but deleted several tough sections, including one to force retaliation against trading partners such as West Germany and Japan who fail to reduce their trade surpluses over the United States.

Sponsor Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) called it "a positively Orwellian misuse of the language" for Democrats to say their trade bill was not protectionist.

Opponent Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) said of the GOP alternative, "It's major weakness is its lack of muscle in confronting unfair trade practices abroad."

Members voting yes preferred the Republican trade plan.

How They Voted Yea Nay No Vote Rep. Dreier (R) x Rep. Martinez (D) x Rep. Moorhead (R) x Rep. Roybal (D) x Rep. Torres (D) x

Trade Retaliation

An amendment to cut the heart out of the trade bill (HR 4800) drafted by the Democratic majority (see previous votes) was rejected by the House on a vote of 137 for and 276 against. The amendment sought to eliminate mandatory retaliation against countries that fail to gradually lower their trade surpluses, and to delete the section permitting American retaliation to be based upon a foreign country's denial of internationally recognized workers' rights.

Also, it sought to preserve a President's authority to reject his trade representative's recommendation of import relief, and to soften a section dealing with countries who "target" or help specific industries to dominate certain overseas markets.

Members voting yes wanted to gut the Democratic majority's trade bill.

How They Voted Yea Nay No Vote Rep. Dreier (R) x Rep. Martinez (D) x Rep. Moorhead (R) x Rep. Roybal (D) x Rep. Torres (D) x

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