As President Obama barnstorms across the country on taxpayer dollars telling Congress to “pass this bill,” he is encountering some unlikely opposition back in Washington: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
Late last week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney downplayed any talk that Harry Reid and President Obama are not on the same team when it comes to the new stimulus plan. Carney told reporters there “were things that had to get done” in the Senate during “September because of the fiscal year constraints.”
(Of course, Harry Reid’s unwillingness – or inability – to produce a budget and move appropriation bills are partially to blame for those “constraints,” but that is a completely separate column…or two.)
Well, it’s now October and those “fiscal year constraints” are behind us. But when the Senate reconvenes this week, Harry Reid will move forward on a bill dealing with China’s currency, not President Obama’s much-hyped stimulus plan. When asked when he’d take up President Obama’s plan, Reid said, “We’ll get to that,” but “I don’t think there are any more important jobs measures than China trade.”
On the policy, Harry Reid is flat out wrong. The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011 (S.1619), which threatens economic sanctions against any of our trading partners whose currency is found to be “misaligned” by Treasury Department guidelines, is just bad policy. While the value of China’s currency may make for a good political talking point, there is no evidence to suggest it has any real impact on American job creation.
The distortions in the Chinese economy are numerous, making it difficult to sort out which policies harm the U.S. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume China’s currency does rise further. The result of passing this bill will be that cash-strapped Americans will pay more for Chinese goods. Unfortunately, the poor will be disproportionately harmed by higher priced Chinese goods, which are mostly lower-end clothing and consumer electronics.
On the politics, the move is a slap in the face to President Obama, who is telling everyone that will listen how important his new stimulus plan is to the economy. Instead, the Senate is poised to spend weeks (yes, weeks) on a bill that is nothing more than a political football that has been fumbled back-and-forth numerous times in Harry Reid’s Senate.
Yet, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz doesn’t see it as opposition. Just last month, she said, “I haven’t sensed any resistance from Democratic senators” and she counters that Reid “pledged” to move the bill through the Senate.