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Democrats Milk Olympics Uniform Spat

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Charles Schumer is one of a handful of Democrats making hay out of the fact that Team USA’s Olympic outfits are made in China.

That lawmakers would seek to intervene in an Olympic controversy should be no surprise. The Senate created the modern USOC in the late 1970s as part of an overhaul of amateur sports in America.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid helped flame the controversy last week when he said the USOC’s uniforms should be burned.

“I think they should take all of the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again,” the Nevada Democrat said.

The Chinese government news agency Xinhua responded to the controversy in a commentary, published Sunday, criticizing U.S. lawmakers for the attack. The commentary quoted what it called Reid’s “irresponsible words.”

Ralph Lauren announced Friday that the company would produce future Olympic ceremony uniforms in the United States, which Xinhua criticized as capitulation.

“By criticizing Ralph Lauren for outsourcing jobs, the politicians attempted to reap political gains by portraying themselves as a champion of insourcing U.S. jobs so as to attract greater support among U.S. voters,” the news agency wrote in an editorial.

Lawmakers such as Menendez praised Ralph Lauren’s move, but the New Jersey Democrat said he would move forward with his legislation.

“While I appreciate that commitment, I look forward to the quick passage of this patriotic jobs bill so that the United States never finds itself in this embarrassing situation again,” Menendez said.

Brown, Menendez, Schumer and others might be able to tout the criticism from Xinhua, if recently polling is any guide.

Democratic strategist Mark Mellman released a poll Monday commissioned by the Alliance for American Manufacturing that signaled voter support for tough action on China’s trade policies.

“Voters clearly want to get tough with China,” Mellman said, before highlighting poll findings that suggested people had an unfavorable view of manufactured goods coming from China because of perceived safety risks.

Scott Paul, the executive director of the domestic manufacturing group, predicted that stories such as the Chinese-made Olympic uniforms would continue to attract attention.

Paul said to anticipate “even more of these types of shamings” as a way to promote change and further “Buy America” provisions to promote domestic manufacturing provisions.

 While Democrats have been most vocal in opposition of the Olympic uniforms being made in China, anti-China messaging has won bipartisan support in the Senate in the past.

Last fall, Senators easily passed a bill to give the Treasury Department tools to counteract Chinese currency manipulation. That measure passed 63-35 in October but has languished in the House, with apparent opposition from the White House as well.

Romney, on the other hand, said during the primary campaign that he would designate China as a currency manipulator.

Opponents of the China currency bill say that the measure could provoke an unintended trade war.

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