Let’s Make a Deal?

By Jennifer Parker

Nov 11, 2008 7:33am

At his Oval Office meeting with President Bush yesterday, President-elect Obama pushed an economic stimulus package and aid to the auto industry.

The outgoing president suggested those programs could more easily become law if congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free trade deal with Colombia, as first reported by the New York Times.

No deal was struck.

On "This Week" Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel about such an idea.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  "Let’s move on to the stimulus plan. President-elect Obama said he wants that to happen sooner rather than later.  The White House has certainly signaled its reluctance, but they’ve also signaled that, perhaps, if Congress attached the Columbia Free Trade Agreement to a stimulus package, then the president could sign on this year.  Is that something — is that a trade worth taking?"

EMANUEL: "Look, first of all, as President-elect Obama said on Friday, when the unemployment numbers came out, you have 10 million Americans who are without work.  Earlier in the week, you had a steep drop-off in retail sales. The American people, right now, need help, economically.  You have a package there that — economic recovery act that deals with extending unemployment insurance, and given Friday’s numbers, that’s essential; aid and assistance to states to provide health care to those who are losing it.  You don’t link those essential needs to some other trade deal.

"What you have to deal with is what’s immediate here, and the lame duck is for immediate things that are important. That’s what should be the focus, right now. There’s an economic recovery package in front of the Congress. Washington should get it done.  I think the economic news, as the president-elect has said this week, both retail sales and unemployment, indicate we have a crisis here. There’s not time to waste. Let’s get on with helping the American people."

- jpt

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