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Reid playing for leverage with jobs bill

Reid playing for leverage with jobs bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden fails to break GOP 'fever' Nevada governor signs law making state first presidential primary Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms 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. 

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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 BrownBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' MORE (Ohio), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowExcellence Act will expand mental health and substance use treatment access to millions Senate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices Lobbying world MORE (Mich.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Senate filibuster fight throws Democrats' wish list into limbo Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda 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 SchumerChuck SchumerCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar 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 BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' 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 BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists 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. 

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“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 BurrCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE (N.C.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans White House reiterates opposition to raising gas tax amid infrastructure debate MORE (Maine), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (S.C.), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions 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.