Friday, July 29, 2005

North Carolina Republican Switched Vote on CAFTA

For weeks, Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., was colorfully adamant in his opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "What does CAFTA sound like? NAFTA," Hayes declared. "It's not in the best interests of a core constituency I represent. Every time I drive through Kannapolis and I see those empty plants, I know there is no way I could vote for CAFTA."

But an hour into what is normally a 15-minute roll call - and still short the votes needed to avoid handing President Bush an embarrassing defeat - Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told Hayes he could promise increased GOP attention to the challenges China poses to the domestic textile industry.
Hayes switched his vote, and the agreement passed 217-215.

Democrats vow to make Hayes' change of heart an issue when he seeks a fifth House term in 2006 from a textile-heavy district in a state where many voters blame the North American Free Trade Agreement for the loss of tens of thousands of well-paid manufacturing jobs in furniture and textiles over the past decade."Rarely have we seen a member of Congress so adamantly speak on one side of a position in public only to support the other side on the floor," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement. "Call it a flip-flop or a pander or whatever you want - to most North Carolinians I know, that's what's called simply not telling the truth to your voters."

In a telephone interview Thursday, Hayes said he had voted no when the clock ran out on CAFTA late Wednesday night, with the measure apparently headed to a 214-210 defeat. That's when House Speaker Dennis Hastert asked if Hayes was willing to switch."They came to me and said, 'Negotiations are open. Put on the table the things that your district and people need, and we'll get them,'" Hayes said.Hayes said he didn't have a laundry list of demands. But he said he told Hastert he wants the White House to step up enforcement of existing trade regulations with China and to impose sanctions if China continues flooding the U.S. market with textile imports. That was promised, he said.

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