WASHINGTON — Legislation making China’s normal trade relations status permanent as part of its World Trade Organization bid sailed through key House and Senate committees Wednesday, but the bill’s fate is still in doubt leading up to next week’s vote by the full House.
There was little question that the measure, ending the annual Congressional review of China’s trade status, would pass the Senate Finance Committee, where pro-free-trade sentiments run deep in both parties. The measure cleared finance 18-1, with Sen. Jim Jeffords (R., Vt.) casting the lone “no” vote because of the imprisonment in China of a Tibetan musicologist, he said.
In the House Ways and Means Committee, the size of the vote was uncertain. Democrats in the House have been fiercely lobbied by organized labor against the bill. But after several hours of discussion, 12 Ways and Means Democrats joined 22 Republicans voting in favor of PNTR, in a strong 34-4 vote. The dissenters were all Democrats.
Lobbying in the full House is expected to remain intense, with several dozen Democrats still undecided. Their votes are needed to pass the bill.