What happened
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would block a trade deal with Colombia, effectively putting the agreement to lower tariffs on hold until the White House agrees to more relief for American workers. The debate over the Colombia deal came as Democrats and Republicans wage an election-year battle over free trade and how it affects jobs and the struggling economy. (The Boston Globe, free registration)

What the commentators said

Pelosi is leading the Democrats astray on free trade, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). “Economically, it should be a no-brainer—especially at a time of rising U.S. joblessness.” Pelosi says she doesn’t intend to “kill” the deal, but “the Democrats’ decreasingly credible claims of a death-squad campaign against Colombia’s trade unionists, constitutes all that’s left of the case against the agreement.”

Since when did standing up for human rights become an invalid reason for opposing anything? said John Nichols in The Nation’s The Online Beat blog. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement would “formalize U.S. support for the assassination of labor union organizers by death squads, impoverishment of workers and the undermining of farming operations that will leave more landless peasants with no alternative but to immigrate to the United States seeking work.”

The real issue isn’t whether to lower barriers with Colombia, said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. It’s “how to help workers deal with an already globalized economy.” Once that is resolved, Congress will pass this free trade pact just as it has every other one that has come before it, including one for Peru.

Don’t bet on it, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Pelosi’s power play marked the completion of a “protectionist make-over” the Democratic Party hopes will win votes in November. But Pelosi will soon learn that “trashing our best ally in Latin America” is a “first-order strategic blunder.”