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Smith Takes Stand As Independent

July 21, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A week after defecting from the Republican party, Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire made his first stand as an independent Tuesday, protesting GOP leaders’ decision to keep any debate on U.S. trade with Vietnam and China off the Senate floor.

The Senate rebuffed his effort, voting 81-12 to keep the debate on China in the Finance Committee, and 94-5 to do the same for the matter regarding Vietnam.

``This is not the time to engage in a protracted debate on the Senate floor over our relations with China and Vietnam,″ said retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y.

Armed with charts, Smith insisted that the full Senate, not just the Finance Committee, debate extending U.S. government credits to the two countries, as President Clinton has proposed.

Smith, who is maintaining his presidential candidacy, said he had evidence that Vietnam has severely restricted that ability of its citizens to emigrate to the United States. That, he said, should make Vietnam ineligible for U.S. programs that subsidize business deals between American and foreign companies.

China, Smith said, has made little progress on its human rights record and Congress should reverse Clinton’s grant of low-tariff normal trade relations.

Clinton last year waived a requirement of the Trade Act of 1974 that makes countries that deny free emigration ineligible for U.S. credit and investment guarantees. The White House justified that action because Vietnam since 1979 has allowed more than 480,000 of its citizens to leave legally for the United States.

Both chambers of Congress are required to veto such waivers. The process begins in the House, which is still considering the matters to which Smith referred.

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