WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives on Thursday said they would try to force a vote on a China currency bill that House members overwhelmingly approved last year but that died in the Senate.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said party members were circulating a "discharge petition" to force Republicans who control the chamber to bring the bill to the floor. That would require 218 signatures, she said.
The House passed the currency bill last year by a vote of 348-79, with 99 Republicans joining 249 Democrats in support.
Democratic Representative Sander Levin, who was then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, spearheaded the drive.
However, Republican leaders have said they do not plan to bring up the bill and have urged the Obama administration to focus instead on what they consider bigger problems in the U.S.-China trade relationship.
Levin told reporters on Thursday that Republicans should allow a vote on the bill if they are interested in protecting American jobs. He and many other lawmakers contend China's currency is undervalued by as much as 40 percent, giving Chinese companies an unfair trade advantage.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer circulated a letter to Senate colleagues this week informing them that he also intends to introduce a China currency bill soon.
The renewed focus on China currency legislation comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to send free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia to Congress for votes. The pacts are unpopular with many Democrats.
(Reporting by Donna Smith; writing by Doug Palmer; editing by Eric Beech)