by Lucas O’Connor / Two Cathedrals / October 31, 2011
Hypocrisy is a painfully familiar political topic in recent years, but this is a particularly stunning case. Congressman Brian Bilbray is co-sponsoring legislation that would boost the US economy and create jobs by demanding that China play by the same economic rules as the rest of the world — but using parliamentary tactics to block the House of Representatives from being allowed to hold a vote. That is, he signed himself up to help pass the bill, and is now blocking the passage of that bill. At the cost of new jobs — lots of them.
Amidst a renewed national discussion about how to rebuild a stronger economy, Congress has been wrestling with legislation to hold China accountable for its currency manipulation. For years, China has been artificially devaluing its currency to the benefit of the Chinese economy and the detriment of, well… the rest of the world. As Senator Sherrod Brown said recently, “China is cheating, and that’s costing American jobs” — to the tune of 2.8 million American jobs lost in the last decade.
In response, the Senate managed a rare display of bipartisanship, passing legislation empowering the government to take action against China’s currency manipulation. As Senator Brown points out, an Economic Policy Institute report found that addressing currency manipulation could be good for 2.25 million new American jobs, not to mention the stabilizing impact it would have on the rest of the global economy.
It would be easy to be optimistic about the chances of passage, since a majority in the House are signed up as co-sponsors of the companion legislation — including Brian Bilbray and 60 other Republicans. But despite co-sponsoring the bill to demand fair global economic practices and generate millions of jobs, Bilbray and other House Republicans are blocking a vote on their own bill. That means that Bilbray is, at the very least, putting party ahead of passing a bill he thinks should be passed. More cynically, it suggests that Bilbray is co-sponsoring the bill only for show, without any intention of seeking its passage or the jobs that would result.
But don’t worry. Bilbray’s got indifferent to the situation. Just let them eat a yacht race! While he’s blocking the jobs bill that he’s co-sponsoring, he’s come up with legislation to manipulate federal law to subsidize the America’s Cup. I checked, and believe it or not, this is really a jobs plan Bilbray is trumpeting. While claiming sponsorship of, then blocking a bill to take on China’s systematic de-stabilizing of the U.S. and global economy, Bilbray is laser-focused on special legislation to support a yacht race.
Incidentally, we’ve all heard repeatedly from economic conservatives that the government doesn’t create jobs, just destroys them. But what is Bilbray trumpeting with his legislation? “This legislation will…generate more than 9,000 jobs…” Right. Suppose that all depends on whether this is one of Bilbray’s bills that he wants to allow a vote on, or one that he’s only co-sponsoring for show and torpedoing while he hopes nobody’s looking.
But lest you worry that Bilbray and other House Republicans aren’t taking job creation seriously, never fear! House Republicans may not be interested in allowing a vote on the job-creating bills they sponsor, but they will be taking up a resolution to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto. In case there was a surprise expiration date that we didn’t know about. That should do the trick if the yacht race doesn’t put food on the table.
To cut Bilbray some slack, he finds himself in a tough spot heading into next year’s re-election campaign. Redistricting didn’t do him any favors (he even moved for at least the second time in his career to stay in proper district), and recent polling found that only 42% of voters want to re-elect him, while 51% are ready for someone else. Tough numbers for any incumbent who wants to stay the incumbent. But it would be cynical to suggest he’s publicly attaching his name to a big economic fairness, job creation bill for the PR while operating behind closed doors to spike its chances… right?