A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday called on President Obama and House Republican leaders to support a Senate-passed measure that would pressure China and other countries to allow their currency to appreciate, arguing that Chinese “cheating” on the issue has cost the United States more than 1.6 million jobs.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) urged action on the bill at a Capitol news conference Wednesday afternoon, one day after the Senate passed the currency measure on a bipartisan 63-to-35 vote.
“Allow the House to work its will on this issue, because we’re very confident that there would be a strong bipartisan vote if the House is allowed to vote on this issue,” Stabenow said, a jab at House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) pledge at the start of the 112th Congress to let the House “work its will” through an open legislative process.
Graham, one of 17 Senate Republicans who voted in favor of the Senate measure, projected that “350 votes are most likely to be had there” if the measure were to be brought up on the floor of the House. A similar measure last year passed the House with the support of 99 Republicans.
“You’re miscalculating where the country is on this issue,” he said of House Republican leaders.
Boehner and other House GOP leaders have repeatedly declined to bring the bill up for a vote, arguing that it could lead to a “dangerous” trade war. They have also argued that it’s up to the White House, which has yet to issue a formal Statement of Administration Policy on the measure, to make clear its position.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated Wednesday that the administration shares Congress’s goals on the currency issue but does not necessarily support the Senate-passed legislation.
“As I’ve said and others, we share the goal of the legislation in taking action in making sure that our workers and companies have a level playing field with China,” Carney said at the daily White House press briefing. “Aspects of the legislation do, as I’ve said, raise concerns about consistency with our international obligations, which is why we’re in the process of addressing with Congress those issues. And if this legislation were to advance, we would expect those concerns to be addressed.”
Schumer said Wednesday that he had “talked to the White House about this proposal,” and Graham urged Obama to take a formal position on the measure and potentially work with Congress to revise it.
“To the president: We need you,” Graham said. “Now’s the time to lead. ... An open invitation to the president: if you can make this better, we’re all willing to accept adjustment.”
While the senators had strong words for Obama and House Republican leaders, they aimed their most heated rhetoric at the Chinese government, which in recent days has warned that the currency measure could damage U.S.-China relations and has criticized the Senate as acting with “callous disregard” for Beijing’s position.
Graham on Wednesday responded with heated rhetoric, countering that China has not played by the rules.
“I have a callous disregard for the Chinese position, because I think it is cheating. ... China has a callous disregard for the rule of law,” he said. “They cheat at every turn; they steal intellectual property; they counterfeit goods, affecting our defense industries, and they manipulate their currency.”
“We don’t have this kind of discussion with normal nations,” he added. “We don’t have this kind of discussion with democracies. You’re having this kind of discussion with a Communist dictatorship with a command and control of the economy that’s acting like the mob.”
Brown, who like Graham and the other senators has long been a vocal critic of China on the currency issue, argued that the United States is already in a trade war with China and that Chinese criticism of the Senate measure was unsurprising.
“There’s an old Ohio saying, ‘When you throw a rock at a pack of dogs, the one that squeals is the one you’ve hit,’” Brown said. “Well, of course they squealed; of course they’re unhappy with this. That’s going to be the reaction to try to intimidate American politicians ... and by and large, they’ve been successful over the years.”