Insight on Ag Panel Votes on Free Trade Agreements

October 28, 2011 10:11 AM

You would assume that members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees would support trade agreements, given the role that trade plays in U.S. agriculture. But a look at how those representatives and senators voted on recent trade issues reveals that’s not always the case.

Overall, the House voted 262–167 to approve the Colombia trade pact, 300–129 to clear the Panama free trade agreement and 278–151 to approve the South Korea package. On the House ag panel, Republicans tended to back trade agreements while Democrats were mixed.

On the Senate Ag Committee, similar trends were evident on the trade deals, but the Senate vote on the China currency bill provided an interesting glimpse into lawmakers’ positions.

In the Senate overall, the Colombia deal was approved 66–33; the Panama pact, 77–22; and the Korean agreement, 83–15. All 10 Republicans on the panel voted to approve the trade packages, with only four of the 11 Democrats voting for all three deals: Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.). But all of the Democrats voted for the China package, along with a surprising total of five Republicans: Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and John Hoeven (N.D.).

The Republicans who voted for the China bill are not up for re-election, so it wasn’t to curry favor with voters. One explanation for those who voted against the China currency bill, observers note, is that they wanted to express their displeasure with China and its currency actions, knowing the bill was not going to become law.

The House isn’t likely to even bring the China currency matter up for a vote, and the White House has already expressed its concerns with the bill.

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