House Democrats plan manufacturing jobs push

Democrats in the House of Representatives are planning action on a number of bills to boost U.S. manufacturing jobs, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday.

"We want to focus on ... 'Made in America,'" Hoyer told reporters. "We want to focus on encouraging -- and yes, tax benefits would be part of this -- expanding manufacturing."

The push comes as Democrats in the House and the Senate face potentially heavy losses in November elections because of voters anxiety about the high U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5 percent and frustration with Washington in general.

It also follows a poll last month done for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that showed 86 percent of Americans wanted Washington to pay more attention to manufacturing.

The same survey of 1,000 likely voters found a majority no longer believed the United States was the world's best economy and nearly half were worried the United States was too deeply in debt to China.

Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said the biggest step Congress could take would be to pass China currency legislation along the lines of that crafted by Senator Charles Schumer and others in Senate.

"We're pushing very hard for this," Paul said.

That bill would give the Obama administration new trade policy tools to fight what many lawmakers believe is China's unfair currency practices, he said.

Hoyer, in response to a question, acknowledged a similar bill offered by Representatives Tim Ryan and Tim Murphy was one of nearly 20 bills that have been introduced in the House to boost the manufacturing sector.

But he was noncommittal about whether the House would vote on that measure.

Beijing has made clear its displeasure with that currency legislation, while the Obama administration has said it is still evaluating the measure.

A House Democratic aide said leaders were still deciding which bills would be part of the manufacturing package and would announce their decision "in coming days."

However, the House could vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that one study has estimated would increase U.S. production by $4.6 billion and support almost 90,000 jobs.

The U.S. Manufacturing Enhancement Act, more commonly known as the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, temporarily suspends import duties on a long list of materials used by U.S. manufacturers.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin urged Republicans to support the bill, which Congress typically passes every few years on a bipartisan basis.

Both the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support the bill.

[Source: Reuters, Washington, 20Jul10]

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