House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday said that it’s up to the White House to make clear its position on the Senate’s China currency bill before House Republican leaders decide whether to bring the measure to the floor.
“Look, I think what I would like to see is where the administration is,” Cantor told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing. “I mean, clearly they’ve got concerns as well. They have not issued a (statement of administration policy) on something this important; I would think that they would. ... I would like to hear from those who are on the frontline of this relationship with China what the concerns are. It would seem to me that it’s a big deal when you’re talking about a trading partner like China, if you do this without the input of the White House.”
The Senate later Tuesday is expected to pass a bipartisan measure that would make it more likely for the U.S. Treasury Department to take action against China regarding the yuan, which experts estimate is undervalued by 15 to 38.5 percent. Backers of the measure — ranging from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the left to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on the right — argue that the undervaluation of the yuan has cost the United States more than one million jobs and that the Senate bill would increase pressure on China to allow its currency to appreciate.
Opponents of the bill — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted “yes” on an initial procedural vote but voted “no” on a second one late last week — counter that the measure could escalate U.S.-China tensions and potentially lead to a trade war.
The decision by Cantor and other House Republican leaders not to bring the measure to the floor comes even as some rank-and-file GOP lawmakers are expressing support for the bill. A similar measure overwhelmingly passed the House late last year with the support of 99 Republicans.
The White House has not offered a formal Statement of Administration Policy on the measure; Obama said last week said that while his administration supports the goals of the China currency measure, the White House prefers diplomatic rather than legislative channels as a means of addressing the issue.
“Whatever tools we put in place, let’s make sure that these are tools that can actually work, that they’re consistent with our international treaties and obligations,” Obama said at a news conference last Thursday.
Cantor’s statement Tuesday that the White House should move first comes even as he and other House Republican leaders have touted the fact that their chamber has often acted to approve measures before the White House or the Senate has taken action.
“The House has passed legislation to remove barriers to private-sector job creation, ease job-destroying regulations, expand American energy production, and significantly reduce our unsustainable debt burden,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in an August statement on the White House’s announcement of Obama’s jobs speech. “The House has led, but unfortunately we cannot act alone. Too many House-passed jobs bills remain stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and we continue to urge our colleagues in the Senate to act.”
Cantor on Tuesday said that House leaders were concerned about the potential impact that the legislation might have on the country’s economy and argued that “it’s the administration’s role to make sure that the playing field is even for the manufacturers and small businesses of this country.”
“Again, I think the debate would be well-served by the White House stepping up and detailing where its concerns are,” he said. “The (U.S. Trade Representative), the State Department, Commerce Department — they all have an interest in this and certainly the president does. This is a significant trading partner and it would have a tremendous impact, I would imagine, if a bill like this was passed — on consumers and pricing and the rest.”