Pressure over China currency

Friday , September 21, 2012 - 12:15 PM

The Washington Post

Mitt Romney routinely accuses President Obama of failing to get tough with China. The president has returned fire by slamming Romney over outsourcing at Bain Capital and touting his own filing of enforcement actions against China. But it’s worth noting that legislation on China’s currency is sitting in Congress. A bill has already passed the Senate and would almost certainly pass the House if the GOP leadership allowed a vote on it.

That bill is about to get some attention. Although the legislation has strong bipartisan support in Congress, the White House has not publicly supported it. This has created a point of disagreement with labor, which views the bill as a major priority. Romney opposes it.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D, the lead sponsor of the legislation, is organizing to increase the pressure on his fellow Ohioan, House Speaker John Boehner, R, to hold a vote on the bill. Brown circulated a letter Wednesday among senators demanding a vote and noting that a similar bill passed in 2010 with the support of 80 House Republicans still in office.

The bill would give the U.S. government trade tools to more easily combat currency manipulation, which could lead to higher tariffs against China. The White House has not backed the bill because officials believe doing so would start a trade war. But many on the left want the legislation as part of their push to revitalize manufacturing.

"I’m confident Obama will sign this bill," Brown told me in an interview, attributing his view to his conversations with the White House. "This will pass if Boehner schedules it."

The bill and the ideas behind it resonate heavily with working-class voters, Brown said, such as those in industrial swing states such as Ohio and Wisconsin. "People recognize that trade policy and tax policy have undermined the middle class and manufacturing," he said. "The public knows the game has been rigged."

Brown’s declaration that Obama would sign the bill seems intended to push House GOP leaders to bring it to a vote; China is a potent issue in the industrial battlegrounds. But a vote seems highly unlikely as Boehner keeps calling the bill "dangerous" and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes it out of worries over a trade war.

In any event, more public attention could increase pressure on all parties to act.

— The Washington Post

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