WASHINGTON – In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a series of free trade pacts Wednesday with the support of a majority of Minnesota’s congressional delegation. The Senate also approved the trade deals in a vote tonight.
Minnesota’s four Republican House members all voted for the bills liberalizing trade with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Rep. Michele Bachmann took a break from her presidential campaign to return to Washington and cast her first votes in the House since Aug. 1.
“These FTAs [free trade agreements] will create jobs at home in Minnesota without costing taxpayers a dime and will level the playing field for American exports and boost demand for our products,” said Rep. Chip Cravaack in a statement released after the vote.
The four DFL House members split their votes, reflecting divisions within the Democratic Party over the impact of free trade on American workers. Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voted against all three agreements. Rep. Collin Peterson supported the deals with Korea and Panama but voted against the Colombian agreement. Rep. Tim Walz supported the Korean deal but opposed the other two.
“At a time when our national unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent, with 14 million Americans looking for work, we cannot afford to pass trade agreements that cost jobs here in the United States,” said McCollum in a statement.
The entire Minnesota delegation unanimously supported another measure to extend assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of increased competition from the trade agreements.
Supporters of the agreements argue that increased trade will boost American exports by up to $13 billion a year and support 250,000 jobs, while critics argue that those gains from trade are oversold and that past free trade agreements have not lifted American workers’ standard of living.