Reid playing for leverage with jobs bill

Reid playing for leverage with jobs bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-Nev.) has made it clear that he will not schedule a vote on President Obama’s jobs package until after the upper chamber moves a China currency bill that the administration does not support.

Reid is wielding a significant amount of leverage with the White House on the China legislation, which is unlikely to be signed into law in the 112th Congress. Yet passing the bill through the Senate — which is expected to happen next month — would help Democratic incumbents on the campaign trail, where China-bashing usually resonates. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill would crack down on what critics contend is China’s policy of manipulating currency to give its companies a trading advantage. The Obama administration is not eager to confront China over its currency policy, but congressional Democrats are eager to tackle it — especially politically vulnerable Democratic incumbents in Midwestern states. They include Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy Manufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank MORE (Ohio), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' MORE (Mich.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Congress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools MORE Jr. (Pa.), whose states’ economies have suffered because of a steady outflow of manufacturing jobs to China.

Some Senate Democrats have described the president’s position as “eerily silent.” And that’s how they want it to stay, knowing that opposition from Obama would hurt their cause.

The China measure has long been a top priority for Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-N.Y.), one of Reid’s top deputies. 

The then-Democratic-controlled House last year passed a China currency bill, 348-79, a month before the elections, but the top three Republicans in the House — Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorDave Brat's seat moved to 'toss-up' 4 years after upset victory over Eric Cantor The animating forces behind the Democratic Party are true, radical leftists Divided Democrats are in danger MORE (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — voted no. 


This year, 200 House lawmakers have co-sponsored companion legislation, including 56 Republicans. 

Many Republican freshmen made taking a tough stand on China a prominent theme in their 2010 campaigns. However, it’s unlikely to hit the House floor any time soon.

That would give Reid and Schumer an opportunity to bash BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE for refusing to act on a bipartisan jobs bill, countering criticism from the GOP that the Senate is a graveyard for a slew of House-passed bills. 

Boehner’s office did not comment for this article.

Obama has made a $447 billion jobs package his top legislative priority. Earlier this month, Obama urged Congress to pass his jobs bill “now.” Three weeks later, Reid has not yet scheduled a vote.

Obama also favors congressional ratification of trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. 

The president touted the trade pacts in a speech to a joint session of Congress earlier this month to loud Republican applause while Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stayed glued to their seats and refused to clap. 

Reid later said he is “not a big fan of free-trade agreements” and also noted that he and his colleagues had various concerns about the jobs package. 

The Nevada Democrat has promised to proceed with Obama’s legislative wish list, but only after the Senate considers the China bill, deftly using the Senate calendar to keep any possible opposition from the administration at bay. 

Reid said Monday evening that the China legislation would take priority. 

“I don’t think there’s anything more important for a jobs measure than China trade. That’s what we’re going to work on next week. China trade is a jobs bill. It’s long, long overdue,” he told reporters. “It’s a bipartisan bill, and I feel very comfortable we’re going to pass that.”

One Senate Democratic aide said the Obama administration would be wise not to take potshots at the legislation, knowing it will depend on Reid to pass the jobs package and the trade bills. 

Another Senate Democratic aide predicted the administration would steer clear of the issue regardless of Reid’s political maneuver because it does not want to oppose the popular bipartisan legislation. 

“Whatever reservations the administration may have about this bill, they realize how popular it is, and there is very little reason to vocally oppose it, even if privately they hope it doesn’t pass,” said the source. 

Democratic senators, such as Brown, the lead sponsor of the legislation, have repeatedly raised the China currency bill in conversations with senior administration officials. Labor leaders such as Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, have also made the case for the measure. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“At the highest levels, we have spoken to the White House and the secretary of Treasury,” said Robert Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. “They’re holding their cards pretty close to the vest.”

Baugh said Trumka has pressed Obama and Vice President Biden on the issue for years. Still, the White House has declined to take a public position on the legislation, which Democrats in Congress have interpreted as veiled opposition. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has noted the administration continues to urge Chinese officials to give the yuan more room to appreciate in value but has refused to call China out as a currency manipulator. 

An administration official told The Hill the White House is reviewing the legislation and has not yet taken a position.

The legislation would require the secretary of the Treasury and the U.S. Trade Representative to treat currency manipulation as an anti-competitive trade practice and take countervailing action to boost domestic companies. 

It would also set into motion government studies of international monetary policy and currency exchange rates. 

The Senate is scheduled to vote to proceed to the China currency legislation on Monday, and it is expected to pass the chamber next month with strong bipartisan support. The Republican co-sponsors include Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCongress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools Christine Todd Whitman: Trump should step down over Putin press conference GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE (N.C.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (Maine), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Polling analyst: Changes to legal immigration ‘the real sticking point among Democrats’ Graham would consider US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (S.C.), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors Key GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum MORE (Ala.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has also latched on to what could be a potent issue in the 2012 election. 

Romney unveiled a Web video in July accusing Obama of not following up on his campaign promise to “take China to the mat,” if necessary. 

A study released last week by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, found that the U.S. lost an estimated 2.8 million jobs, mostly in the manufacturing sector, as a result of the nation’s trade deficit with China since China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.