The Senate voted to end debate Thursday on legislation targeting China's currency, ensuring an up-or-down vote on the measure.
In a 62-38 vote, several Republicans including Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTop admiral: North Korea crisis is 'worst I've seen' Comey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record MORE (R-S.C.) joined Democrats in agreeing to move forward with the measure, which is designed to pressure China to raise the value of its currency. Proponents argue China keeps the value of its currency low to secure a trade advantage over the U.S.
The vote signals the legislation has the support to clear the Senate, but it is uncertain whether it will be taken up by the House, where Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) has criticized the measure.
An earlier procedural vote to open debate on the bill drew more Republican support, prevailing 79-19. Some Republicans voted 'no' on Thursday at the urging of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.), who had criticized Senate Democrats for limiting amendments to the China bill.
Speaking in favor of the bill Thursday morning before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) called China’s currency tactics “underhanded.” Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSchumer: NYC should refuse to pay for Trump’s security Reagan's 'voodoo economics' are precisely what America needs When political opportunity knocked, Jason Chaffetz never failed to cash in MORE (N.Y.), the No. 3 Democrat in the chamber, suggested that if Chinese officials see the legislation moving through the Capitol they might decide to reform themselves.
“When China sees the train headed down the tracks and that for the first time their attempts to stall … this bill won’t succeed they will adjust and correct themselves, not just on currency but on all the other areas where they don’t treat us fairly,” said Schumer.
Republican opponents said passing the legislation could ignite a dangerous “trade war” with China, the second largest trading partner with the U.S.
Others, like Sens. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain downplays threat of preemptive strike against North Korea McCain plan gains momentum amid North Korea threats Sunday shows preview: Trump plans next steps MORE (R-Ariz.) and Mark KirkMark KirkThe way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump ObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.), said the bill was simply a waste of the Senate’s time.
“I worry we are diverting the Senate’s time from the big game which is the joint committee and its work on reducing the deficit,” Kirk said Wednesday, referring to a new supercommittee of 12 lawmakers trying to reach a deal to reduce the deficit.
If the underlying bill, S. 1619, is signed into law, it would create a system under which the Treasury Department would have to determine whether any foreign currencies are in fundamental misalignment. If it did, the department would be required to start negotiations. Countries that fail to fix their currencies after those talks could be hit with higher tariffs.
That’s a change from current law, which requires Treasury to cite countries that are intentionally manipulating their currencies. Treasury has cited countries in years past, but not for about a decade; the department has argued it cannot easily determine whether countries are manipulating their currency for the purpose of gaining a trade advantage, as the law requires.