In an explosive report tonight, top House Democrats discovered provisions in the controversial Oman Free Trade Agreement that would permit foreign ownership of U.S. ports and other key national security assets. Three Democrats and one Republican held an emergency press conference today to expose the provisions just before the House is scheduled to vote on the Oman pact on Thursday. As Reuters reports, "Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who serves on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said the pact would allow companies such as Dubai Ports World to acquire U.S. port operations by establishing a shell company in Oman." Those provisions might also allow foreign ownership of other key national security assets, considering just after the recent Dubai Ports controversy, that country went ahead with plans to purchase a major U.S. defense contractor.
Last month, lawmakers from both parties in the U.S. Senate joined hands to pass the Oman Free Trade Agreement - which is being pushed aggressively by the Bush administration and its largest corporate donors. Lawmakers ignored major labor, human rights and environmental objections to the pact put forward by more than 400 union, religious and consumer groups. Among those voting for the pact in the Senate were Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), two Senators facing tough re-election bids who could face renewed criticism in their home states that they have sold out their constituents.
The House vote is expected to be much closer than the Senate vote, and the explosive news tonight puts a new level of pressure on congressional lawmakers of both parties not to sell out. To date, a number of Democratic lawmakers have yet to say how they will vote on the Oman pact. Corporate lobbyists are aggressively targeting the 15 Democrats who last year capitulated to Big Money's demands and backed the corporate-written Central American Free Trade Agreement. They are also targeting members of the New Democratic Coalition - the group of Democrats most closely affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council.
This vote is going to be extremely close - and bought-off lawmakers are scrambling to hide and/or obscure the details of these national security provisions. But as Reuters notes, even the Bush adminstration's trade representative acknowleges that the national security provisions create an exploitable security hole. That means that regardless of the propaganda efforts, the upcoming vote will put House members on record not only on economic issues, but on national security issues. Are these lawmakers going to sell out America's national security? Or are they going to stand up to Big Money interests and say this trade deal and others like it are unacceptable? Contact your House Member immediately and tell them you expect them to put America's national security first.
UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) and Lou Dobbs have both previously spoken out on these exact national security concerns with regard to the Oman Free Trade Deal. I apologize for not citing them earlier - they originally broke the story.