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Posted at 02:24 PM ET, 09/27/2011

Senate will take up Chinese currency measure before jobs bill

With a bipartisan agreement in place to keep the government open into November, Senate Democrats will now move immediately to take up President Obama’s jobs bill, right?

Not exactly.

“We’ll get to that,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday night, when asked if the likely passage of the temporary spending bill meant the Senate could now consider the president’s package.

Obama visits a Denver high school Tuesday to again urge immediate Congressional action on his package of tax cuts and incentive spending designed to spur job growth, part of a barnstorming tour of the country designed to raise pressure on lawmakers.

But Republicans have been chortling that Congressional Democrats don’t appear to be itching to put the plan to a vote.

Reid, who is sponsoring the package in the Senate, said the Senate will first take up debate next week on a bill to punish Chinese and other nations for currency ma­nipu­la­tion.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important for a jobs measure than China trade, and that’s what we’re going to work on next week,” he said.

Work on the Chinese trade ma­nipu­la­tion measure has been on the back burner for months, and it enjoys strong bipartisan support in the Senate, where leaders see it as a jobs-protection bill that has a good chance of passage.

The Chinese currency measure has been championed particularly by Democratic Senators whose states have been hard hit by overseas outsourcing--and who will face tough reelection battles next year, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

“We understand that there’s conversations going on about the president’s jobs bill--which I support. I’m in agreement with that,” Reid said. “But let’s get some of these things done that we have to get done first.”

Consideration of the president’s jobs plan, on the other hand, will likely be blocked by Senate Republicans. Once the whole package is put aside, Congress may move to consider separate pieces of the package-- such as a payroll tax cut and new school construction dollars, as Republicans have urged.

A senior Senate Democratic aide insisted the decision to complete the Chinese currency measure simply means the chamber is taking up a bill that will pass before holding what will likely be a symbolic vote on the jobs plan.

“There is a lot of interest in taking up the president’s plan. It’s seen as a bold, serious proposal that would make a serious dent in our unemployment problem,” the aide said. “There is broad support in the Democratic caucus to take it up in the very near future.”

The aide predicted the Senate will debate the jobs plan sometime in October. The slight delay, he said, also fulfills a request from the White House that they be given time to sell the public on the package before it faces its first Congressional vote.

“It was at the White House’s request that they be allowed an opportunity for the president to explain the details of the plan to the public,” the aide said.

White House senior advisor David Plouffe Sr. said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that officials expect a Senate vote on the whole jobs package “at some point in October.”

“We’re going to keep making the case,” he said.

But some Republicans believe the Senate’s failure to fast-track the president’s plan to the top of the agenda is a sign the bill does not have full Democratic support. Several Senators have criticized elements of the plan, including Obama’s proposal to pay for it by limiting deductions for upper-income families.

“While we continue to hope that we can work with the president on policies that will help create jobs, his much touted proposal at this point faces bipartisan resistance,“ said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

By  |  02:24 PM ET, 09/27/2011

 
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