While the American Jobs Act failed a cloture vote last night, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act passed the Senate on a final vote. That bill would allow the Commerce Department to target currency manipulators like China with tariffs proportional to their currency manipulation if industries or unions file complaints. And it would force the Treasury Department to brand currency manipulators rather than having leeway to avoid it.
Like the other two cloture votes, this bill received super-majority support in the Senate, with a final vote of 63-35. The bill now moves to the House, where a version of it has a majority co-sponsoring, including 61 Republicans. But the House GOP leadership is blocking a vote.
House Speaker John Boehner last week said it would be “dangerous” for Congress to get involved with a foreign country’s exchange rate.
Another top Republican, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said President Barack Obama should clarify his position on the bill, which has drawn warnings from Beijing.
“What I would like to see is where the administration is. Clearly they’ve got concerns as well,” Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, told reporters.
This is also a rare instance of the White House hiding behind the obstructionism of the House GOP. I imagine they’re perfectly content to see the House deny passage of the bill. But there are plenty of Senate Republicans who want to see passage of the bill; Harry Reid invoked Lindsey Graham in his statement — “I join my colleague, Senator Graham, in calling on the House to take up this bill and pass it quickly”.
The one tool that Democrats have at their disposal to force a vote is a discharge petition, which would lead to a vote if a majority of the chamber signs. But while 61 Republicans co-sponsored the bill, almost none of them have signed the discharge petition, and the one who did, Hal Rogers of Kentucky, had his name removed a day later. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Mitt Romney, the likely nominee for the GOP, supports branding China a currency manipulator, and reiterated that belief at last night’s Presidential debate.
Meanwhile, China is formally lobbying against the bill, with a 12-member “Congressional Liaison Team” working inside the Chinese Embassy and meeting with lawmakers as well as White House officials. State-run media in China is likening the bill to the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised tariffs during the Depression. The assumption is that Smoot-Hawley caused or exacerbated the Depression, which it actually didn’t.
China also claims that they have appreciated the yuan “greatly” in the past 6 years, which is also not entirely true. They continue to purchase hundreds of billions of US dollars to keep their currency artificially low. According to a Peterson Institute for International Economics report, China’s currency manipulation is at a greater level this year than it was last year.
But clearly there’s going to be a real fight to get a vote in the House. The 61 Republicans co-sponsors, who I will name below, have a choice to make. They can pay lip service to helping American exports and lowering the trade deficit, bringing jobs to their communities, or they can do something about it. And the House leadership has a role to play, as Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last night.
“The Republican Leadership is thwarting the will of the House by blocking a vote on this jobs bill. I call on Speaker Boehner to listen to the American people and bring this bill to the floor and allow it to receive the bipartisan vote it deserves.”
It’s certainly a better trade agenda than the three so-called free trade agreements, which are expected to pass both houses of Congress today.
Here are the Republican co-sponsors, on the flip:
Republican Co-Sponsors of Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 639)
Rep. Todd Akin (Missouri)
Rep. Steve Austria (Ohio)
Rep. Lou Barletta (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Brian Bilbray (California)
Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah)
Rep. Mo Brooks (Alabama)
Rep. Dan Burton (Indiana)
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia)
Rep. Howard Coble (North Carolina)
Rep. Chip Cravaack (Minnesota)
Rep. Rick Crawford (Arkansas)
Rep. Charlie Dent (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (Missouri)
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Randy Forbes (Virginia)
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (Nebraska)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Chris Gibson (New York)
Rep. Sam Graves (Missouri)
Rep. Morgan Griffith (Virginia)
Rep. Gregg Harper (Mississippi)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (California)
Rep. Bill Johnson (Ohio)
Rep. Tim Johnson (Illinois)
Rep. Walter Jones (North Carolina)
Rep. Mike Kelly (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Steve LaTourette (Ohio)
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (New Jersey)
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (Missouri)
Rep. Donald Manzullo (Illinois)
Rep. Tom Marino (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Michigan)
Rep. Patrick McHenry (North Carolina)
Rep. David McKinley (West Virginia)
Rep. Patrick Meehan (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Candice Miller (Michigan)
Rep. Tim Murphy (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Sue Myrick (North Carolina)
Rep. Tom Petri (Wisconsin)
Rep. Joe Pitts (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Todd Platts (Pennsylvania)
Rep. James Renacci (Ohio)
Rep. Scott Rigell (Virginia)
Rep. Hal Rogers (Kentucky)
Rep. Mike Rogers (Michigan)
Rep. Mike Rogers (Alabama)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (California)
Rep. Dennis Ross (Florida)
Rep. Jon Runyan (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin)
Rep. John Shimkus (Illinois)
Rep. Bill Shuster (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (Indiana)
Rep. Glenn Thompson (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Michael Turner (Ohio)
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (Georgia)
Rep. Ed Whitfield (Kentucky)
Rep. Joe Wilson (South Carolina)
Rep. Rob Wittman (Virginia)
Rep. Frank Wolf (Virginia)
Rep. Don Young (Alaska)