Clinton wins Daschle's vote on 'fast track' Trade measure still faces stiff opposition in House

November 04, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- After weeks of lobbying, President Clinton virtually guaranteed yesterday that the Senate will renew the trade negotiating authority that he has called a centerpiece of his economic policy.

Clinton won over the support of Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, on the so-called "fast track" trade legislation.

The South Dakota Democrat announced his backing yesterday, the day before a key vote in the Senate. The administration now hopes to use his conversion to help rally Democratic support in the House, where the president still faces an uphill fight.

Daschle made his statement surrounded by a cast of Cabinet officials. The officials announced that Clinton would take a range of actions aimed to ease Democratic concerns and win over legislators from agricultural states worried about foreign competition.

The announcement was part of a major lobbying drive across Capitol Hill as the president fights for the legislation, which he has called crucial to the ability of the United States to take the lead in the global economy.

Every president since Gerald Ford has used fast-track powers to bolster his negotiating position with foreign governments on trade deals. Administration officials have said they view this week's battle to renew the power as one of the most significant confrontations of Clinton's second term.

With Daschle's help, the administration is counting on winning the 60 votes necessary today in the Senate to defeat Democrats who are trying to block the trade measure from coming to a vote.

White House officials then hope to use that vote and Daschle's support to counterbalance Democratic leaders Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, who are opposing the measure, which is expected to come to a vote in the House on Friday.

Clinton let the power -- which gives Congress the right to approve or disapprove trade agreements but not modify them -- expire in his first term rather than seek a vote that would divide Democrats as he headed into a presidential election.

Organized labor opposes the president and argues that the Clinton administration is unwilling to use its ultimate weapon -- the threat of trade sanctions -- to safeguard U.S. jobs.

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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