Reid playing for leverage with jobs bill

Reid playing for leverage with jobs bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidManchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives Water wars won’t be won on a battlefield Poll finds most Americans and most women don’t want Pelosi as Speaker 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 BrownO’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold Deval Patrick announces he will not run for president in 2020, citing 'cruelty of election process' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown MORE (Ohio), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThis week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight Manchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives This week: Lawmakers return to mourn George H.W. Bush MORE (Mich.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyWould-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits O’Rourke, Brown shake up volatile Democratic horse race The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Democratic race for Speaker turns nasty 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 SchumerFreedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives House approves two-week spending measure to avert shutdown 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 BoehnerMeadows looks to make his move Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus MORE (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorGM lobbyists go into full crisis mode over layoffs Bottom Line McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote 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 BoehnerMeadows looks to make his move Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus 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 BurrNRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks Hillicon Valley: Ecuador says 'road is clear' for Assange to leave embassy | Panel questioned Bannon on Cambridge Analytica | Trump aide says US knew about arrest of Huawei exec | Judges grill DOJ lawyers on AT&T merger appeal Bannon interviewed with Senate Intelligence panel on Cambridge Analytica: report MORE (N.C.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (Maine), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Cornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE (S.C.), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Mueller closes in on Trump Mueller's findings don't matter The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe 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.