This was a vote on a motion to end debate (known as a “motion to invoke cloture,” or a “cloture motion”) on legislation that would attempt to force China to raise the value of its currency (the yuan). If China did not raise the value of the yuan, the bill would increase tariffs on Chinese exports. Supporters of this bill argued that American manufacturers could not compete with Chinese exports unless China agreed to raise the value of the yuan. Opponents of the bill argued that it would force U.S. consumers to pay more for products made in China.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) argued: “…If good American companies with great ideas are wiped out in the next 10 years--as they will be if China continues its predatory practices--the future for our children and grandchildren in this country will not be bright. Our seed corn, our family jewels are being decimated by a plague of unfair competition that has been allowed to continue. “
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) also supported the bill: “We can compete with China and we are, in many ways. When we give them a currency advantage as large as this, good companies that are capable of competing and being successful are being hammered. The middle class in this country is being hammered. This has to stop, and we have to ask ourselves: Is this country going to abandon its commitment or belief in a manufacturing economy? Are we going to give up manufacturing entirely? I don't think that is remotely conceivable. We have had brilliant economists tell us we need to be a service economy and we can just deal with computers and e-mails and move paper around and that this creates growth and wealth. We need a manufacturing economy….I have become energized about this because I believe it is a deep responsibility for every government official to protect our national security and protect our economic security.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) argued that this bill would send a signal to the world that “the United States is turning inward once again, seeking protectionist solutions to global problems, and not interested in working with other countries to solve our current international economic crisis. At the same time, we would be interjecting further uncertainty into our own economic recovery as our exporters and workers face potential retaliation from one of our leading trading partners.” Hatch also argued: “I am also concerned that the bill will inject economic instability in a key bilateral relationship and subject U.S. exporters to potential retaliation by the Chinese….A growing chorus has come out to criticize the unilateral approach in this bill--a growing chorus. The New York Times called this bill ``a bad idea'' and `too blunt of an instrument' which, if enacted, is very unlikely to persuade China to change its practices, while adding another explosive new conflict to an already heavy list of bilateral frictions. The Wall Street Journal called the underlying bill `the most dangerous trade legislation in many years.'”
The Senate agreed to the motion to end debate on the Chinese currency bill by a vote of 62-38. 50 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted “yea.” 35 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate ended debate on legislation that would raise tariffs on Chinese exports if China did not raise the value of its currency—and thus cleared the way for the bill to eventually come to a final vote.