Congressmen rip Rossi over WTO position

Dino Rossi’s comments about whether the Pentagon should apply recent World Trade Organization rulings to the upcoming U.S. Air Force tanker bidding show he’s not ready to fill Patty Murray’s tennis shoes in the halls of Congress, members of the state’s Congressional delegation said Tuesday.

“It’s either gross incompetence or gross negligence,” said U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee.

“If you have to clarify your answer on this one, you’re just not ready,” added  U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

Inslee, Larsen and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks joined Washington labor leaders — including Machinists District 751 Legislative Director Larry Brown — in a telephone press conference to discuss Murray’s move Tuesday morning to introduce legislation in the Senate that would require the Pentagon to include the WTO findings against EADS and Boeing among its criteria as it weighs bid for the KC-X tanker contract. Similar legislation — co-sponsored by Inslee — sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year on a 410-8 vote.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Murray called her amendment “a common-sense, straightforward way to protect American aerospace jobs from unfair European competition.” She said the changes would target “a major job-creating project — the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker contract — as a place where we can begin to restore fairness for our aerospace workers.”

The amendment was co-sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican.

The three Congressional representatives said they supported the Murray/Brownback amendment — and all three were sharply critical of Rossi, who told editors of the Tacoma News-Tribune on Monday that he saw no reason for including the subsidy issue in the tanker evaluation.

“Not as far as I’m concerned, no,” Rossi said.

Rossi later backtracked from his comment, saying everyone had misunderstood his answer. He later issued a statement saying he thinks the WTO findings on aerospace subsidies should be applied to the Airbus bid, but not Boeing’s. He also vowed to support Boeing by fighting against labor unions on questions like the Employee Free Choice Act — which, District 751 officials noted, has no effect on Boeing and is totally unrelated to the issues of the tanker or WTO.

Rossi’s performance, at best, shows him to be an inept politician, the Congressmen said.

“When it comes to this question, you should have had your answer ready 10 years ago,” said Larsen. “Anybody who has a position on this should have been practicing saying it for years, not just making it up on the last minute,” he said.

And if it’s not a question of Rossi’s political skills, then the Republican challenger simply hasn’t been paying attention during the long-running debate over what is now the biggest job-creating program for Washington state, the Congressmen said.

“I was just appalled by Dino Rossi’s lack of understanding on this issue, on this tanker competition, and how important the U.S. case is,” said Dicks, who chairs the House Defense Appropriations Committee that must approve funding for whatever tanker the Air Force picks.

Pointing to the WTO findings against Europe, released earlier this year, Dicks noted that “Airbus has received illegal and unjust launch aid on a whole series of planes, but especially the A330, which is the plane on which their bid is based. Apparently Rossi was unaware of that.”

It may be a complex issue, but it’s vitally important to Boeing, Boeing workers and Washington’s economy, said Inslee. “It’s inconceivable to me that someone running for the Senate in the state of Washington woudn’t understand the home-town implications,” he said. “This is the $64,000 question in the state of Washington right now. We need all hands on deck on this issue, and that means either Republican or Democrat. We need a senator who will fight for Boeing and make it their top priority.”

Even Rossi’s latest statement explaining what he was trying to say the first time about his position is problematic, Inslee said, in that it would violate global free-trade rules by favoring Boeing over EADS.

“We’ve got to be scrupulously even-handed,” Inslee said. “I doubt Mr. Rossi understands that.”

Washington State Labor Council spokesman David Grove told the press conference that Rossi had drawn “an uninformed line in the sand on this issue,” trying to create a partisan debate over a point upon which Democrats and Republicans have agreed from the start. “That kind of demonstrates how out-of-touch Mr. Rossi statement was on that issue.”

And Brown, the Machinist, said Rossi’s statements on the issue were “surprising” and “mystifying.”

“On the face of it, it seems like he’s siding with Airbus,” Brown said. “He’s had a long time to make himself familiar with the nuances of the WTO rulings and the tanker fight, and if he’s still this confused, that’s a troubling sign. He either just doesn’t care about Boeing, or he doesn’t care about Boeing workers, and either way, that’s not good for us as Machinists, or for Washington as a whole.”

Sen. Murray, on the other hand, “gets it,” Brown said. “She’s fought for Boeing, she’s fought for our jobs and she’s clearly on our side. We’re going to work hard to support people who support us, and that certainly would include Patty Murray.”

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One Response to “Congressmen rip Rossi over WTO position”
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  1. […] The long-running battle between Boeing and EADS over the U.S. tanker contract has become a key issue in this year’s mid-term Congressional elections in Washington, with incumbent Democrats earning the endorsement of the Machinists Union for their strong support of Boeing’s bid, while Republicans have seemed to fumble over how to address the issue, given that GOP leaders are backing efforts to give the tanker contract to the Europeans. Earlier this fall, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray chastized her Republican challenger, Dino Rossi, after he said he didn’t feel World Trade Organization findings against EADS should be a factor in the Pentagon’s decision on which tanker to buy. Rossi quickly reversed himself after being ridiculed by Larsen and other Congressional Democrats. […]

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