WASHINGTON -- After their efforts were rebuffed at the end of the last Congress, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reintroduced a bill Thursday targeting China for its allegedly undervalued currency.
The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act of 2011 would authorize the Commerce Department to bring a case to impose countervailing duties on a country that manipulates its currency -- a clear strike at China, where the renmibi is closely managed and could be undervalued as much as 40 percent. The department can brings cases to the International Trade Commission about illegal trade subsidies from China in areas like steel production, but this would give the department additional power to examine currency.
Nearly identical legislation passed overwhelmingly in the House last fall but never made it onto the Senate's agenda during the crowded lame duck session. And despite the bipartisan camaraderie of Thursday's announcement -- Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., are also primary co-sponsors -- the legislation faces a rocky path this year.
Although the previous bill passed, 348-79 -- with the support of the entire Pennsylvania delegation -- the Republican leadership, which now controls what legislation is brought to the House floor, voted against it. Foes of efforts to go after China for undervaluing its currency argue that it could provoke an unhealthy trade war and that cheap Chinese goods are good for American consumers.
It's unclear if President Barack Obama would sign a currency manipulation bill because of its potential to disrupt the delicate economic relations between the two nations. Still, the president and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner repeatedly have urged China to allow the renmibi to appreciate at a faster rate.
Mr. Murphy has toiled on the issue for years, as congressional support has grown to retaliate against China for currency manipulation and other practices of their state-run economy that limit how businesses can deal in the world's most populous nation.
"All of this has created a Great Wall of Illegal and Unfair Manufacturing and Trade Practices," Mr. Murphy said in a statement. "And we cannot, should not, will not, sit idly by while they undermine our jobs."
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who supported Mr. Murphy's bill in the last Congress, co-sponsored a bill last month to mandate action against currency manipulators. But Mr. Murphy criticized the effort as too aggressive to win congressional and administration support.
Daniel Malloy: email@example.com or 1-202-445-9980. Follow him on Twitter at PG_in_DC.