Washington The Republican leadership's last-minute arm-twisting of wavering House GOP members produced a dramatic one-vote victory Thursday for a bill to strengthen President Bush's hand in negotiating a new world trade agreement.
On a 215-214 vote, Bush pulled out a victory on an important economic measure that put his international clout and prestige on the line with the nation engaged in a difficult war on terrorism.
The bill, which would bar Congress from amending trade agreements negotiated by the president, now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the majority leader, said it would not be taken up until next year.
But the measure cleared the toughest political hurdle in the House, where it has been blocked in the past by members of both parties who complained trade deals have destroyed jobs in their districts.
From the GOP perspective, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., put the choice on the line. "This Congress will either support our president who is fighting a courageous war on terrorism and redefining American world leadership, or it will undercut the president at the worst possible time," he said.
But such stirring words weren't enough. With the outcome in doubt during an extended roll call that Republicans were losing by five votes, GOP leaders prevailed upon a handful of their party members inclined to vote against the bill to change their minds.
One who had waited until the last minute to vote, Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., said he was ready to oppose the bill if the vote had not been close. In the end, he said, appeals to patriotism worked. "He's my president, and I helped get him elected," Ballenger added.