Senate Blocks Obama Jobs Bill; Passes Crackdown on China Currency
The Senate failed to advance the American Jobs Act Tuesday night as Pennsylvania’s Senators split along party lines.
Bob Casey joined 48 other Democratic Senators and both Independents in supporting the measure, while Pat Toomey joined the entire Republican caucus plus Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jon Tester (D-MT) in blocking the procedural motion to advance the plan. The final tally of 51 to 48 fell nine short of the 60 votes required for cloture.
In a statement, Casey blamed the situation on Washington politics. He reiterated a statement – recently used by Republicans to condemn the bill – that it was too large an ought to be split into smaller parts.
“The opposition to even debating the jobs bill is disappointing, but not unexpected. Partisan gridlock has become the norm in Washington. That is why a month ago I called for the jobs bill to be broken up,” Casey said.
“The Senate should immediately begin a series of votes on measures to create jobs, starting with the tax cut to help businesses hire workers.”
In his own statement, Toomey reiterated much of the recent Republican criticism of the bill.
“President Obama’s latest stimulus bill contains hundreds of billions of dollars in increased spending and more tax hikes, which won’t create jobs any more than his last stimulus bill did,” he said.
It’s a setback for President Barack Obama, who traveled to Pittsburgh Tuesday to rally support for the bill. There he called the vote a “moment of truth” for the U.S. Senate. Republican leadership said the bill would not get a vote in the U.S. House.
Reports indicate the White House will now seek to pass less controversial parts of the bill in piecemeal fashion.
Some Republicans made the vote out to be a liability for Casey, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Spokesman Chris Bond said Casey, “continues to put his loyalty to President Obama over the best interests his state’s families and job creators.”
2012 GOP Senate hopeful Tom Smith joined in. The coal industry veteran and former Tea Party leader inaugurated his campaign’s press operation with a release on the subject today.
“Despite his repeated attempts to distance himself from President Obama’s agenda that has left 14 million Americans still unemployed – Senator Casey today, once again, demonstrated himself to be a rubber stamp for the President’s failed economic policies,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, Casey scored a victory during another Tuesday night vote. A bipartisan 63 to 35 majority in the Senate voted to pass the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, which mainly targets China. The Washington Post reports that the measure:
“Would require the U.S. Treasury Department to impose retaliatory tariffs on countries found to have ‘misaligned’ currency. Treasury routinely assesses the practices of China and other countries but has declined to conclude that China’s valuation of the yuan is the result of manipulation. Economists estimate that the yuan is undervalued by as much as 15 to 38.5 percent.”
“This is a victory for Pennsylvania workers who have seen too many jobs sent overseas because of China’s unfair policies,” Casey said. “I have talked with countless business owners and workers throughout Pennsylvania who have been hurt by China’s actions. China’s currency manipulation amounts to cheating and it has put our workers and our economy at a disadvantage.”
Rep. Mark Critz (D-Cambria) has been a leading voice on this issue in the House. He called for immediate action in his chamber of Congress.
“China’s currency manipulation costs us hundreds-of-thousands of American jobs and undermines our manufacturing sector. Yet despite bipartisan support for legislation that will fix this imbalance, the Republican Leadership refuses to move forward on this issue,” Critz said in a statement. “Let’s stop playing political games and do what’s in the best interest of American workers and businesses – let’s bring the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act to the House Floor for immediate consideration.”
Toomey opposed the bill due to concerns over harmful trade conflict with China.
“While this legislation may be good politics, it is terrible policy,” spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik told the Allentown Morning Call. “It could lead directly to new taxes on certain goods. In addition, this legislation dramatically increases the risk of a trade war that will cause a huge decline in American exports. Instead of bringing jobs here, it would likely just push jobs from China to other low-wage countries, which does nothing to help our unemployed workers.”
President Obama and the Republican leadership in the House have tread lightly on the issue, each refraining from taking a definitive stance. It appears unlikely that the bill will become law.