Rep. LaTourette R too

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Rep. LaTourette (R) too stupid to remain in Congress?

I suspect over the next weeks and months we’re going to have a number of stories like this one, in which a lawmaker’s excuse for switching their vote on CAFTA is picked apart and proved to be a laughable dodge. But Rep. Steve LaTourette’s may turn out to be a classic.

LaTourette, of Ohio’s 14th district, was a down-the-line opponent of CAFTA, which made a lot of sense for his northeast Ohio district. But on the day before the vote, Rep. LaTourette received a call from Tom Chieffe, the president of a furniture manufacturer from the district. Chieffe told the congressman that his company was getting socked hard by tariffs on Central American plywood. And the Ohio jobs at his company were on the line.

Rising to the challenge LaTourette got on the phone to US Trade Rep. Rob Portman, who himself just retired from his seat representing Ohio’s 2nd District (the one the Hackett race was in). Portman sent over some papers outlining the rough tariffs on Central American plywood. And as a result, says LaTourette, he reluctantly agreed to change his vote to ‘Yes’ on CAFTA.

The only problem, according to this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer is that there aren’t any tariffs on Central American plywood.

US government statistics say American businesses paid a total $4,700 in tariffs last year on Central American plywood. And even that was apparently paid by mistake.

Here’s what the Plain Dealer said about the Portman bamboozle …

Portman’s office acknowledges giving LaTourette a paper that made it appear CAFTA would eliminate the 8 percent tariffs. It defended its actions in interviews with The Plain Dealer over the last week, saying the existing plywood exemptions were not as sweeping as those offered under CAFTA.

“And this locks in the benefits and therefore locks in the supply” of plywood, said Matt Niemeyer, Portman’s congressional affairs liaison.

Yet figures from the International Trade Commission, an independent panel, and the Census Bureau, citing tariff collections, show that to be an unnecessary distinction in the claim that tariffs were jeopardizing a big corporation.

You should really read the article, for comedy value if nothing else. It leaves only two real possibilities: the more likely one that LaTourette was himself in on the cover story that is now revealed to be completely ridiculous or he is such a simpleton that he simply can’t be trusted to represent the 14th district.

Admittedly, there is the third possibility that LaTourette was both in on it and a hopeless simpleton, as evidenced by the fact that he thought no one would ever find out that these tariffs don’t exist.

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