With overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress managed to send President Reagan a trade bill he will sign, one that jubilant supporters say "will make `Made in the USA' a label of pride again."
"While this bill is not perfect - no bill 1,128 pages in length ever is - on balance it will strengthen American's international competitiveness," Reagan declared as he accepted the legislation stripped of amendments that prompted him to veto it a first time around.The reform bill marks the sharpest shift in U.S. trade policy since World War II and is considered by Republicans and Democrats alike to be one of the major achievements of the 100th Congress.
The legislation, product of three years of work, is designed to open global markets to U.S. products, to crack down on foreign trade abuses and to assist American industries and workers hurt by imports. It also calls for better coordination of economics with major trading partners and takes specific action such as repealing the windfall profits tax on petroleum products.
The Senate approved the legislation 85-11 Wednesday; the House had passed it last month on a 376-45 vote.
"The Senate today has passed a landmark trade bill," crowed Senate Democratic leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia. "(This) will make `Made in the USA' a label of pride again."
Agreed Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore.: "This bill will help the label `Made in the U.S.A.' appear on shelves in Tokyo, in Bonn and Paris. . . . I am confident you're going to see this trade deficit go down and down and down."
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, floor manager for the bill and the Democratic vice presidential candidate, told colleagues, "What you've seen here is the most major piece of trade legislation in 60 years.
"We've taken a situation in which in the last three years this country has gone from the No. 1 lender nation to the No. 1 debtor nation, (and) this legislation will start the turnaround in that process," he asserted.
But Sen. Steve Symms, R-Idaho, one of 11 senators to vote against the bill - 10 of them Republicans - said the package sends a "message that America is becoming more protectionist. It is absolutely illogical for us to try to interfere with a healthy, growing economy."
After final passage, the Senate approved a separate resolution to dilute a provision allowing for extended imports of ethanol from the Caribbean. The resolution, approved 62-34, would not allow extended imports unless the president certified the domestic industry cannot fully supply U.S. demand. The resolution did not stop the trade bill from going to the White House.
Democrats and Republicans joined forces Wednesday to crush a series of amendments offfered by Republicans, which, if adopted, would have returned the trade bill to the House for consideration in the waning weeks of the session.