A Bipartisan Triumph
Republicans pass Obama's trade bills.
WSJ, Editorial, October 17, 2011
President Obama's Washington loves to drape itself in sackcloth and ashes about political polarization, and we're constantly told that bipartisan achievements are somehow impossible because Republicans don't want to give Mr. Obama a victory or they want to harm the economy for political gain. Yet Wednesday night, the GOP carried the three free-trade agreements through Congress that the President wanted and that will help growth, business expansion and hiring.
The House approved the deals with South Korea 278 to 151, Colombia 262 to 167 and Panama 300 to 129. Respectively, 86%, 94% and 95% of the nay votes came from Democrats. Republican opponents never exceeded 21, notwithstanding media and White House claims that the tea party freshmen would be protectionist.
In the Senate, which passed the bills by wider margins soon after the House voted, the opponents ranged from 15 to 33—but nearly all of them were Democrats as well. The only exception was the Colombia pact, which received the most "nays," including Maine's two Republican Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
Mr. Obama yesterday called the deals a "major win for American workers and businesses," and he's right about the economic benefits of expanding world-wide markets—especially the South Korea pact, which is the largest expansion of trade since Nafta in 1993. The President deserves credit for finally making the deals a priority despite the opposition of labor and certain elements of his own party, even if they were delayed and included too much political posturing and payoffs for unions that still opposed the pacts.
But the larger political reality is that these trade deals never would have passed if Nancy Pelosi's Democrats still ran the House. That's the main reason they didn't pass in Mr. Obama's first two years. Republicans, the House majority in particular, deserve credit for honoring their campaign commitments on trade, notwithstanding the protectionist pressures that are always highest when joblessness is as high as it is now.
The votes show that Republicans are willing to work with a Democratic President—when the policy deserves support.