- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the China currency bill is the most important jobs legislation Congress can enact, while House Speaker John A. Boehner calls it “dangerous” — and the White House has refused to take a stand.

“We share the concern of members about the valuation of the Chinese currency and the need to appreciate the value of the Chinese currency. We also are concerned that any action that might be taken would be effective and consistent with our international obligations,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday, demurring yet again on the issue that is dominating Capitol Hill. He wouldn’t commit to taking a stand before the Senate holds a final vote, which could come later this week.

The Senate officially began debating the bill Tuesday, after a 79-19 test vote Monday cleared the way. Mr. Reid used parliamentary moves to block out any amendments, trying to prevent the debate from spinning into a freewheeling fight over free trade and U.S. debt.

But even if the bill clears the upper chamber, it faces a stiffer path in the House, where Mr. Boehner said that Congress is not the right place to make such complex decisions.

“I think it’s pretty dangerous for us to move legislation in the United States Congress forcing someone to deal with the value of their currency,” the Ohio Republican told reporters at the Capitol.

House Speaker John Boehner (left), Ohio Republican, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (center), Virginia Republican, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, takes part Oct. 4, 2011, in a news conference on Capitol Hill to discuss China currency. (Associated Press)
House Speaker John Boehner (left), Ohio Republican, accompanied by House Majority Leader ... more >

“This is well beyond I think what the Congress ought to be doing. While I’ve got concerns about how the Chinese have dealt with their currency, I’m not sure this will fix it,” he said.

The bill has become enmeshed in campaign politics and the escalating focus on trade after Mr. Obama on Monday submitted three long-delayed free-trade agreements for Congress‘ approval.

Sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, the measure would push the administration to find that China is getting an unfair trade advantage by holding down the value of the yuan. The measure would allow compensatory tariffs to be imposed on goods from countries that are deemed to be undervaluing their currency.

Chinese officials warned that if Congress passed the bill and Mr. Obama signed it, that could ignite a trade war between the two nations.

However, supporters said that’s already the reality.

“We are already in a trade war with China, and it’s not going that well,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “American companies are fighting for survival in the United States and around the globe, battling subsidized Chinese exports with a built-in price advantage of 20 percent to 40 percent.”

Mr. Reid on Monday had said he was certain the measure would pass the Senate and the House, but Mr. Boehner’s opposition makes it tougher.

House Democrats said if it comes to the floor of their chamber, it has a chance.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said a House version of the China currency bill has 218 co-sponsors — 61 of them Republican — and easily would pass the chamber. He added that a similar bill passed the House in the last Congress with broad bipartisan support.

“This is a bill that has enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

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