CLINTON, DOLE WORKING A DEAL ON GATT
Byline: Joyce Barrett
WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration was negotiating details of an agreement late Wednesday with Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R., Dan.) that could insure congressional passage of the GATT Uruguay Round in the post-Thanksgiving lame-duck session of Congress.
Appeasing Dole and his questions concerning various items in the GATT bill — including U.S. sovereignty under the new World Trade Organization, which would be the governing body for the trade pact — has remained paramount in the administration’s quest to pass GATT this year. Even Dole’s Republican colleagues Wednesday dismissed objections raised earlier this week by other prominent GOP senators as secondary to satisfying Dole.
“If Dole is with us, we’ll carry this rather handsomely,” Sen. Bob Packwood (R., Ore.), chairman-to-be of the Senate Finance Committee, said during a press conference to promote GATT.
Packwood acknowledged that it was Dole and not Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.), who held the key to GATT’s passage. In a letter this week to Clinton, Helms urged holding off on the GATT vote until next year.
GATT also got a boost from House leaders — Republicans and Democrats — Wednesday who wrote President Clinton to reiterate their support for the agreement.
“Over the coming two weeks, we plan to work with you and all those who believe in the importance of the GATT Uruguay Round agreement to enact this legislation into law,” the letter said. It was signed by Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.); House Minority Leader Robert Michel (R., Ill.), outgoing Speaker Thomas Foley (D., Wash.), and outgoing House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D., Mo.). Dole, in a separate press conference, said he was working with the administration on a three-part piece of legislation that would be considered by the 104th Congress next year. He did not specify what the three parts were. However, one is expected to deal with sovereignty issues, another with a provision affecting telecommunications and a third would eliminate the guaranteed 4 percent minimum rate paid on U.S. savings bonds and go to a floating rate.
“The idea of all of this is to support GATT this year,” Dole said at the press conference. “But if we can’t fix it, we can postpone it.”
He added that the administration appears eager to work with him, telling a reporter after the press conference, [U.S. Trade Representative] “Mickey Kantor calls me about every 10 minutes.”
In trying to explain Helms’s objections to the agreement, Packwood said Helms was listening to textile magnate Roger Milliken, chairman of Milliken & Co. Packwood, however, mistakenly said Helms and Milliken, who resides in Spartanburg, S.C., were both from North Carolina.
“Senator Helms comes from North Carolina, as does Mr. Milliken,” Packwood said. “Mr. Milliken doesn’t like this bill, and that motivates Senator Helms.”
Milliken, through his Washington spokesman, declined to comment on Packwood’s statements.
In the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, the House is to vote on GATT on Nov. 29 and the Senate is to follow with a Dec. 1 vote.
In the letter he sent Tuesday, Helms told President Clinton that if the GATT vote were delayed until next year, Clinton’s foreign policy proposal would be considered “fairly and fully” by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Helms is expected to chair when the 104th Congress convenes in January.
Also attending the press conference to tout GATT with Packwood on Capitol Hill were Kantor; Vice President Al Gore; Laura Tyson, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers; Alice Rivlin, chairman of the Office of Management and Budget, and Mack McLarty, special adviser to the president.
Asked what the administration’s response was to Helms’s letter, Gore said, “GATT should not be mixed up with any other issues. It’s far too important and a delay would kill GATT and hurt our country immeasurably. There is no reason to delay it other than to kill it.”
Gore said that GATT would cut tariffs worldwide by $744 billion and that more than 10 million U.S. jobs are linked to exports.
“Two weeks from now we will reach a pivotal point when Congress decides whether the U.S. will continue to lead the world in free trade issues. This is a critical vote for U.S. leadership and for the health of the U.S. economy. Anyone who says they are for a GATT delay is calling for a death sentence on the biggest tax cut in the world and for the death of the economic health of the U.S. I don’t know why any member of Congress would want that on their record.”
House Speaker Thomas Foley (D., Wash.), along with acting chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Sam Gibbons (D., Fla.), predicted GATT would pass the House. Gibbons called the last-minute challenges “folderol.”
— Fairchild News Service