Dems on China bill: Let the House ‘work its will’

House Democratic leaders are hoping Speaker John Boehner's own leadership vows will lead to a vote on a popular China currency bill the Ohio Republican opposes.

Boehner has said numerous times this year that his job as Speaker is simply to let the House "work its will."

Yet Democrats say he's refusing to consider the China currency bill, which has 225 bipartisan co-sponsors — plenty of support to clear the lower chamber, where 218 is a majority.

"As a matter of pride, the Speaker should let the House work its will," Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and the lead sponsor of the currency manipulation bill, said Friday during a press conference in the Capitol.

"On trade, we have the primary constitutional responsibility," Levin noted. "Why block action by the House on what is our responsibility?"

The Democrats are urging GOP leaders to bring Levin's bill to the floor when the House returns to Washington after next week's recess. They got a push on Tuesday when the Senate passed a different version of the currency bill by a vote of 63-35, with 15 Republicans supporting the measure.

"We have more than a majority of sponsors in the House … and we think there's clearly the ability of the House to work its will favorably," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. "It ought to do so."

Last month, after the House shot down a GOP proposal to extend 2012 spending, Boehner said it was just a healthy part of the legislative process.

"I have no fear in allowing the House to work its will," Boehner said. "I've long believed in it, and I continue to believe in it. Does it make my life more difficult? Yes, it does."

Last year, the House passed a currency-manipulation bill by an overwhelming vote of 348-79, with 99 Republicans voting in favor of the measure. Boehner was not among them, and he has resisted staging a vote on Levin's bill, arguing that it would incite a "trade war" with one of America's most important trade partners.

"Given the volatility in the world markets, given the uncertainty about the world economy, for the Congress of the United States to be taking this step at this moment in time poses a very severe risk of a trade war," Boehner said this week.

Opposition from GOP leaders is not the only obstacle in the way of the currency bill. President Obama has expressed public reservations about whether the bill violates World Trade Organization rules — something sponsors of the bill deny.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel suggested Friday that the Democrats should be targeting their criticisms toward the White House, not the Speaker.

"Have they discussed this issue with the Democratic President, who also opposes the legislation?" Steel asked in an email.

White House opposition, however, has done little this year to discourage Boehner and other GOP leaders from bringing legislation to the floor. On Thursday, for instance, House Republicans passed a contentious abortion bill the president has said he'll veto. 

Supporters of the currency bill contend that China undervalues its currency, artificially making production of exports cheaper while simultaneously discouraging imports from countries like the United States.

Hoyer estimated the practice has cost 1 million jobs domestic jobs.

"It causes cheaper production overseas, leading to the outsourcing of American jobs, and more expensive American products in foreign markets," he said. "American businesses can compete against anyone, anywhere — if they’re competing on a fair playing field."