The central question at the heart of the battle over the Chinese currency manipulation bill is: Will House Republicans allow this measure — which has strong bipartisan support and would by some estimates create at least one million jobs — even allow the bill to come to a vote?
Late yesterday, after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to move the bill forward, Dems saw a sign that gave them a glimmer of hope that they might indeed get a vote in the House. But today, that hope quickly evaporated.
The latest twist in this story turns on the so-called “discharge petition,” which Democrats have been circulating in order to force a vote on the bill. Dems currently have rounded up 175 of the 218 needed signatures.
As of yesterday, despite a full court press from Dems, not a single Republican had signed the petition to bring the bill to the floor. This, even though 99 Republicans voted for this measure last time, some 31 Republican Senators crossed party lines to support the bill in the Senate yesterday, and the bill currently has dozens of Republican co-sponsors in the House.
Despite all this Republican support, the House GOP leadership opposes it, with John Boehner claiming that progress has already been made on the issue, and that it’s “pretty dangerous to be moving legislation through the United States Congress forcing someone to deal with the value of their currency.” So it’s not getting a House vote — and no Republicans are calling for one, even those who support the measure.
Late yesterday, aides say, Dems thought they had scored a breakthrough: GOP Rep. Harold Rogers had signed the discharge petition. Rogers is no back-bencher — he’s chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee — and Dems thought they’d be able to use his support to lure other GOPers to sign it.
Alas, today Rogers has quietly taken his name off the petition.
What happened? According to a GOP aide, the GOP leadership contacted the Appropriations Committee staff and let them know that Rogers had signed the petition. The leadership noted that it was unusual for committee chairs to affix their names to such petititions, as it could be seen as stepping on the jurisdiction of the committee that has jurisdiction over the issue in question. Rogers then took his name off of it. (A GOP leadership spokesman declined to comment.)
So the number of House Republicans willing to call for this measure to get a vote is back to zero.
UPDATE: Dem Rep. Sander Levin, a leading proponent of this bill, recently spelled out why the House should pass it right away:
As our manufacturers compete with Chinese companies to produce the products of the 21st century — from solar panels to battery cells — currency manipulation is one of the most egregious tools China is using to give its exporters an upper hand.