WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday urged the top U.S. manufacturers to lobby Congress in what he says will be a difficult battle to extend trade promotion authority to President George W. Bush.
This authority, which expires on July 1, allows the president to negotiate trade agreements that must be considered by Congress on an expedited basis that bars any amendments.
''I think it's going to be a tough fight,'' Cheney said in a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers. ''We're strongly supportive of it. It's very important for us to continue to have that authority, but we're going to need help on Capitol Hill.''
The administration won passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005. But, Cheney said, it was one of the hardest votes he has been involved in during his six years as vice president.
The 217-215 House vote on CAFTA showed how tough it has become to get a trade deal through Congress. It required personal appearances on Capitol Hill by Bush and Cheney and - with Democrats united in opposition - some arm-twisting of wavering Republicans to avert what would have been a devastating defeat.
''Our ability to move forward and to continue to advance the trade agenda that we've had in the past is dependent on having trade promotion authority extended,'' Cheney said.
The vice president also called on the Democratic Congress to make tax cuts permanent, saying it is time for skeptics to acknowledge that tax relief has driven U.S. economic growth. He pushed the president's energy, immigration and health care initiatives that were outlined in last month's State of the Union address, and pledged to work with Congress to reduce the use of earmarks - a common lawmakers' practice of slipping pet projects into spending bills.