Club for Growth warns GOP against vote on China currency

The Club for Growth has warned Republicans against signing a petition to force a vote on China currency legislation.

The well-funded conservative group has said it will score as a "key vote" any signatures to a discharge petition to force a House vote on legislation meant to punish China for manipulating its currency to lower the price of its exports to the U.S. 

The Senate moved forward on China currency legislation this week in a bipartisan vote, and a similar measure was approved by the House last year, with 99 Republicans voting yes.

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Small manufacturers and unions argue the U.S. is losing jobs because of low-cost imports from China. Because China pegs its currency to the dollar, these groups argue Chinese products are not fairly priced. 

While Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) opposition to the Senate bill makes it unlikely that he will bring it to the floor for a House vote, the tally last year suggests many Republicans would favor the measure. 

House Democrats are circulating a "discharge petition" that — if a majority of House members sign on — would go over Boehner's head to force a vote. A senior aide to the Democratic leadership said that as of Wednesday, 175 Democrats and no Republicans had signed on, leaving Democrats 43 names shy of the majority needed.

Sixty-one Republicans are listed as cosponsors on the House legislation similar to the Senate bill. 

Republican Rep. Hal Rogers (Ky.) signed the petition earlier in the week, but then removed his name — a move that seemed to foreshadow the Club for Growth's decision Wednesday to key vote the petition itself. Key votes get added to the group's criteria for determining which politicians to target for not being sufficiently conservative.

"A signature on this discharge petition, or any similar petition, will count heavily as an anti-growth action on the Club for Growth's 2011 Congressional Scorecard," read a notice to members of Congress from Andy Roth, the group's vice president for government affairs.

Even without the Club for Growth's involvement, many Republicans would likely have been unwilling to sign the discharge petition, which would have been seen as an affront to leadership. 

Supporters of the bill argue it could create millions of jobs by making U.S. products more competitive, but detractors argue it would eliminate jobs by making imported materials more expensive.