July 28, 2005


CAFTA just passed.

In Bush Win, House Narrowly Approves CAFTA (JIM ABRAMS, 7/28/05, Associated Press)

The House narrowly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement early Thursday, a personal triumph for
President Bush, who campaigned aggressively for the accord he said would foster prosperity and democracy in the hemisphere.

The 217-215 vote just after midnight adds six Latin American countries to the growing lists of nations with free trade agreements with the United States and averts what could have been a major political embarrassment for the Bush administration.

And they worked out a Highway deal today that's within a rounding error of the number the White House demanded, to go with the Energy bill...

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 28, 2005 12:04 AM

Yeah, but the Dems sure have showed the President who's really in charge by not allowing a vote on John Bolton!

Posted by: b at July 28, 2005 12:09 AM

Who will be recessed appointed.

Posted by: jd watson at July 28, 2005 5:35 AM

If Bush cannot maintain discipline in his own party ranks, why should he expect any Democrat to risk ticking off his contributors to cross the aisle and support him on anything substantive?

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 8:39 AM


They don't matter.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 8:49 AM

Haster, DeLay, and Blunt just keep producing wins for the Administration.

Posted by: kevin whited at July 28, 2005 9:14 AM


THey won on Democrat votes this time, because of GOP defections.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 9:40 AM


Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 9:46 AM

Bart: They would have won no matter how many or how few Dems voted for CAFTA.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 28, 2005 9:51 AM

David Cohen is correct. The Republicamn whips held back their contingent votes until the end and deilvered the exact number of yes votes required to pass to measure.

Posted by: Earl Sutherland at July 28, 2005 10:33 AM

The whips did a good job, it's true. However, they did have to make minor concessions to get some of those last votes. Certainly it would have been easier if a few Democrats had been willing to vote for free trade.

Posted by: John Thacker at July 28, 2005 11:57 AM

Well, winning ugly is.....

Posted by: fred at July 28, 2005 1:43 PM

Earl and David,

25 members of the GOP voted against it and 15 members of the Democratic caucus voted for it. Subtract those 15 Democratic votes and add them to the 'NO' total and you get 230 votes in opposition, more than enough to defeat the bill. Subtract those 15 Democratic votes and have them abstain, and CAFTA loses 215-202.

You guys may want to engage in wishful thinking, I am interested solely in vote totals. CAFTA needed the support of some Democrats to win and it was opposed by a fair number of Republicans. 25 votes is over 10% of the caucus.

Until and unless you can show me some evidence that there were any specific GOP 'NO' votes that would have agreed to switch had they been necessary, I must maintain my position that DeLay et al did not have sufficient control of their own caucus to insure victory. That is a failure. While the GOP won the vote, that is not a harbinger of future success.

Given that circumstance, if I were a Democrat and solely a political animal uninterested in the good of the nation and the hemisphere, I would have voted 'NO' just to give the Administration an embarassing loss, because it couldn't keep its own backbenchers like Virgil Goode in line.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 2:00 PM


The way it works is thusly:

The initial vote as time expired was negative, about 175 Y - 180 N. Time for voting was extended to let members who were need to permit the motion to carry to vote (or change their vote). Had any of the 15 yes Democrats decided to switch or not vote the whips would have added the necessary Republican votes to permit final passage. Since the whips only needed 217 votes, 25 Republicans were allowed to vote as they thought expedient.

The party discipline inspired (imposed?) under Gingrich and Hastert since 1995 has been extraordinary. The Republican House leadership has lost very few, if any, crucial votes during that period. In historic terms the Republican party solidarity during this ten year period may be without precident.

Posted by: Earl Sutherland at July 28, 2005 2:20 PM

Am I missing something? Did the treaty pass or not?

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 2:39 PM


I understand the theory. I don't see the evidence.

So far, it hasn't mattered. But the GOP leadership should be concerned when significant numbers of its membership leave the reservation. A fair number of idiots, including Jimmy Duncan and Walter Jones most notably, supported a date certain for leaving Iraq, for example.

These defections are getting more not less frequent and it's time for the Hammer to start Hammering. Especially in seats which the GOP can win easily, there is little reason to keep a Ron Paul around.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 2:53 PM


Why? Free trade is never popular. The point is they passed it.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 3:19 PM

The defections over free trade, and I'll agree that there will always be objections to free trade, especially when it concerns trade with people darker than Arnold Schwarzenegger, are but a symptom of a larger problem. There is a growing number of GOP congress-critters who believe that they do not have to go along with the GOP leadership, and they defect on a regular basis. They apparently feel that they will not be reproached if they do so, that they will not be made to feel any pain.

My view is that this is a dangerous situation, a kind of stub wagging the corgi if you will, that the GOP leadership may not be able to rely on the recalcitrant backbenchers in a situation where it will need to. There are plenty of tough calls left.

My position is that the GOP should start pruning the ranks, jettisoning those members who cannot be trusted to vote the party line, especially when they come from districts that are overwhelmingly GOP. Throwing Ron Paul out of the caucus would be a good start. Then, bringing in Virgil Goode, Zach Wamp, John Duncan et al for a sit-down and a review of the budget, especially with respect to discretionary spending in people's districts. A few discreet phone conversations with local GOP satraps in people's districts and a few large contributors to express White House displeasure and that continued White House displeasure will result in certain contributors not achieving their desired outcomes might be in order.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 3:44 PM

Bart: "So far it hasn't mattered" is a clue.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 28, 2005 3:53 PM

And the French went for 20 years believing the Maginot Line would be just fine, because the Germans never breached it. Its obvious strategic flaws 'hadn't mattered.'

The ancient Romans thought that they could get away with leaving the Danube frontier pretty much unfortified, because after all, 'so far it hasn't mattered.'

The purpose is pre-emptive. You want to be 100% certain that there is no serious defection when it counts. Because then, just as when the Mongols came through the Great Wall of China, it will be too late. Do you want to start worrying about back-bencher defections after the President loses a key vote, and all the Democratic leadership and their MSM enablers are all over the TV and the papers crowing about Bush's 'lame-duck' status? How many times would we have to hear some Democrat like Durbin or Carville or Al Hunt say 'Bush isn't a lame duck, he's a dead duck.'

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 4:01 PM

I don't see the evidence.

The evidence is that they didn't have the votes, then the whips got the wavering ones to agree. The evidence is that fast track went exactly the same way-- passed by one or two votes by the whips agreeing to exactly as much pork as necessary to get that margin. The evidence is spread throughout several news articles, where the GOP whips and members indicated that there were a sizeable body of "on the fence" members who would come around if-- but only if-- it was necessary for passage.

You want to be 100% certain that there is no serious defection when it counts.

Yes, and the House whipping team along with the voting rules for the House made sure of that. Do you really think that forcing extra Members to vote against their district and personal preferences in order to uselessly increase the size of the majority on a bill, or throwing them out of the Caucus, is really going to prevent them from either losing races or voting against important bills "when it counts" out of spite or revenge from being thrown out of the party?

Posted by: John Thacker at July 28, 2005 5:00 PM

When was the last time the GOP lost a major issue in the House? I would say 1994 when they were in the minority.

Posted by: Bob at July 28, 2005 5:44 PM


The Democrats are the French.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 6:47 PM


The vote on "fast-track" authority was much closer (i.e., a possible loss) than CAFTA.

But the man who cast the final vote, Robin Hayes of NC, has been re-elected twice since then, so no harm, no foul (to him).

The only vote the GOP might really have lost since 1994 was the Medicare drug bill, and that was due to some (staunch) Republicans voting on principle, like Pat Toomey.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 28, 2005 7:47 PM

In all those examples, Bart, the misplaced confidence wasn't tested. Hastert and Delay's confidence that they can deliver votes for the President's agenda when it counts is tested a couple of times every Congress, and they always win.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 28, 2005 7:49 PM