House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested today that the chamber take up a bill to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation before three free-trade agreements hit the floor.
The pending deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are expected to be considered in the House next week, but the California Democrat said the House “shouldn’t even be taking up these bills until we deal with the China currency issue.”
“We have said, if you want to talk about trade ... why don’t we just clear our deck first from the abusive trade relationship that the United States has with China, and that China has with us?” Pelosi said at an afternoon news conference.
Pelosi added that the House passed a similar bill about Chinese currency last year. Despite her call for another floor vote next week, Pelosi stopped short of saying she would oppose the trade bills if the currency bill does not get a vote first.
“I don’t think anyone is looking for our support on the [trade] bills,” she said. “I’m saying that from the standpoint of our responsibility to the American people, that if we are going to be proceeding with any trade bills and we’re trying to represent to the American people that trade is going to make a difference in their lives, we should get real about it and address where the job loss is and address the currency manipulation by China or any other country.”
A Chinese currency bill advanced on a procedural vote in the Senate earlier in the day, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to vote for the measure that GOP leaders had sought to kill. A vote on passage could come today.
Senate Democrats hailed the vote as a major step, and President Barack Obama acknowledged at a news conference that China “has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States.” However, Obama stopped short of endorsing the measure outright.
Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner reiterated his opposition to the measure, warning during a televised interview with the Atlantic that the bill could start a trade war.
“It’s dangerous. You could start a trade war,” the Ohio Republican said, adding that Obama should not be silent on the issue. “Why isn’t the president speaking up? Too busy out campaigning?”