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Facing bipartisan congressional opposition to Fast Track trade authority and polls showing majority U.S.
public opposition,1 the Obama administration and GOP congressional leaders are now resorting to asking
members of Congress to swap their votes for promises of special favors and pledges to help
representatives survive the political backlash of a “yes” vote on Fast Track .
Most members of Congress know better than to trust an exiting president’s promises of political cover for voting “yes” on such a
controversial, career-defining issue as Fast Track.
That was partly why President Clinton’s offers of special favors failed to convince Congress to grant him Fast Track authority in 1998 when he, like President Obama, was nearing the end of his second term.
In a political alignment similar to today, 71 GOP members of the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and 171 Democrats voted down Clinton’s Fast Track bid.2
Indeed, political peril for those relying on promises for trade votes is not limited to imminently exiting
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) still awaits changes to the Central America Free Trade
Agreement (CAFTA) to protect his district’s now-devastated sock manufacturers – changes that President
George W. Bush’s administration promised in 2005 to obtain Aderholt’s “yes” vote for that deal.
3 Other casualties of Bush’s broken CAFTA deals were GOP Representatives Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) and Phil
English (R-Pa.). Their casting the last two deciding votes on CAFTA instigated multi-year efforts to
unseat them that succeeded, as did efforts to primary out Democrats, such as Matthew Martinez (D-Calif.)
and Albert Wynn (D-Md.), who cast votes for past trade deals.