Republican legislators broke with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Wednesday, who on Tuesday denounced legislation under consideration by the Senate that would press China to stop artificially undervaluing its currency to gain trade advantages.
The Speaker has indicated that he does not support the bill, saying, "It’s a pretty dangerous thing to be moving legislation through the U.S. Congress forcing someone to deal with the value of a currency."
But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that not acting to address the currency manipulation would be the "dangerous" move.
The senator said that his vote was in line with conservative free-trade philosophies.
"The Republican Party embraces free trade, and I am going to vote for the free-trade agreements, but I am not going to be a Republican who turns a blind eye to currency manipulation and intellectual property theft, simply because we don’t want to offend a trading partner that has economic power over the United States," Graham said.
"What's dangerous," Graham continued, "and I love John Boehner, is to continue to allow them to cheat."
He also reiterated the claim by the bipartisan group of senators supporting the bill that China would not act without pressure from the U.S.
"The only time they move is when we push them," Graham said.
The South Carolina was followed on the program by freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who echoed Graham's support for the bill. West said he didn't know why House leadership was not willing to consider the legislation.
"But I have to tell you that we have to come to the realization that we are in an economic war with China, we have created an incredible trade imbalance with them. I believe in free trade, but it also has to be fair trade," West said.
Opponents of the bill have argued that the move could spark a trade war with the Chinese at a time when the country is economically vulnerable. China already angrily rebuked the move by the Senate to debate the bill on Monday. But West said it it was important to project strength in the global economy.
"I think we need to consider that bill because — look at what's happening. China is manipulating their currency, China owns 27 percent of our debt, we got the Iranians talking about bringing vessels along our coast line," West said. "There are people in the world that only understand one thing: that’s strength, and that’s action, and we can't sit back and be a nation of inactivity."
The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation Thursday.