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Currency Bill Advances Over McConnell’s Objections

Updated: 3:52 p.m.

Republicans helped Senate Democrats to advance a bill to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation, despite apparent efforts by GOP leaders to kill the measure.

The Senate voted 62-38, with 12 Republicans voting with Democrats to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to beat back a filibuster, or invoke cloture.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) after the vote said he hopes to hold a final vote on the measure as soon as today but definitely before week’s end.

“It would be to my liking not to have to spill over into tomorrow,” Reid said, adding that the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur begins Friday evening. “But we have to finish this legislation this week. I would like to do it today if we can.”

However, he said he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) want to give Senators the opportunity to offer amendments and encouraged them to work together to come up with a few that can be offered.

“What we would like to do is have Senators work to come up with some amendments that they feel should be offered and we all will be happy, Sen. McConnell will be happy, to see if we can work our way through this,” Reid said.

The successful cloture vote on the measure comes despite efforts by McConnell to defeat the measure.

On Wednesday, McConnell sought to offer the president’s nearly $450 billion jobs package to the bill. But Reid blocked the effort and used a procedural move to prevent any amendments from being offered to the currency measure. In offering the president’s proposal, McConnell hoped to show that it does not have support of all Democrats.

According to Senate Democratic aides, McConnell subsequently waged a campaign against the bill, urging his members not to vote for it — even those who had already pledged to support the bill — because Reid had shut down the amendment process.

“The minority is put at a substantial disadvantage” in its ability to offer amendments and influence the legislation, McConnell said after the vote. But he added that they would work together to “at least allow the minority to have some voice in the course of the consideration of this piece of legislation.”

Reid blamed McConnell for forcing him to block amendments when the Kentucky Republican sought a vote on the president’s jobs bill. After tweaking the jobs measure to satisfy reluctant Democrats, Reid hopes to hold a vote on the revised package possibly next week.

Speaking Wednesday evening on CNBC’s “Kudlow Report,” McConnell predicted, “The China currency bill is highly unlikely to pass.”

He was proved wrong, however, when apparent whip efforts by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) helped push the vote over the 60-vote threshold it needed to beat back a filibuster, according to Democratic aides.

Though McConnell was asked specifically about Senate passage, his comments may be right on target regarding the ability of the bill to get through the House and to the president’s desk.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today in a televised interview with the Atlantic that he is concerned that the bill could start a trade war.

He also said that he believes President Barack Obama agrees with him but cannot publicly oppose it for fear of upsetting his base.

“The House won’t pass this bill and the president wouldn’t sign it,” a GOP aide said. “So [McConnell’s] right; it’s got no chance of passing into law.”

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