Congress Wraps Up Contentious Session To Campaign As Congress hastens to adjourn for midterm campaigning, both the House and Senate have brought up legislation aimed at protecting American workers from foreign competition. In the Senate, Republicans blocked a bill that would have taken away tax incentives for corporations that move U.S. jobs offshore. In the House, Republicans joined Democrats in passing a bill that allows U.S. firms to demand tariffs on goods from countries with overvalued currencies -- namely China.
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Congress Wraps Up Contentious Session To Campaign

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Congress Wraps Up Contentious Session To Campaign

Congress Wraps Up Contentious Session To Campaign

Congress Wraps Up Contentious Session To Campaign

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As Congress hastens to adjourn for midterm campaigning, both the House and Senate have brought up legislation aimed at protecting American workers from foreign competition. In the Senate, Republicans blocked a bill that would have taken away tax incentives for corporations that move U.S. jobs offshore. In the House, Republicans joined Democrats in passing a bill that allows U.S. firms to demand tariffs on goods from countries with overvalued currencies — namely China.

ARI SHAPIRO, Host:

NPR's David Welna has our report.

DAVID WELNA: Senator minority leader Mitch McConnell suggested those Democrats will have a hard time running on what they've done or haven't done, while in charge of Congress.

MITCH MCCONNELL: It is striking here as we end the session that our good friends, on the other side, have been told by their pollsters that there's almost nothing they can talk about.

WELNA: But one thing Democrats do intend to talk about, is how efforts to pass legislation they say protects American jobs, have been opposed by Republicans. This week in the Senate, a bill that ends tax incentives for sending jobs overseas ran into a GOP roadblock. It was sponsored by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan.

BYRON DORGAN: And regrettably, not one member of the minority voted with us. That is a profound disappointment. But we'll all get over that, but the people that are unemployed won't get over it if these jobs keep moving overseas - and that's the point.

WELNA: Republicans said the point was actually to bring up the bill right before a big election. Oren Hatch is a Utah Republican.

OREN HATCH: Oh, it's pure politics. I mean, everything they've done lately is just pure politics.

WELNA: And Democrats contend everything Senate Republicans have done lately has been aimed at preventing the majority from getting anything done. Here's Missouri's Claire McCaskill.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: I mean, we couldn't pass motherhood and apple pie right now 'cause they would say it was some kind of anti-business socialist takeover.

WELNA: Meanwhile, House Democrats brought up a bill yesterday that lets the U.S. slap trade sanctions on China for undervaluing its currency. That practice makes Chinese exports cheaper while making it more costly to import goods from the U.S. Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio said it comes down to a question of whose side are you really on.

PETER DEFAZIO: Are you with the American people and fair trade or are you with the Chinese, the big international corporations and their excuse for free trade - which is manipulating currencies, trade barriers and taking our jobs away from our workers? Plain and simple.

WELNA: Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling said he was with the households that would have to pay higher prices for Chinese imports and U.S. firms that could face trade war retaliation if the bill passed.

JEB HENSARLING: Precipitating a trade war at a time when we're in tough economic times, making it more difficult for consumers to afford the items they need to provide for their families, I think is unwise public policy. And so I would urge a defeat of this legislation.

WELNA: There was no action, as well, in either chamber on what may be the most contentious issue lawmakers face: what to do about the Bush era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year. In a floor speech yesterday, House minority leader John Boehner blasted Democrats for leaving without first making all those tax cuts permanent.

JOHN BOEHNER: And how any member could vote to adjourn and pump this into a lame duck session, I think, is putting your election above the needs of your constituents.

WELNA: But in fact, neither Republicans nor Democrats saw much point in prolonging this fractious pre-election session. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who's facing a tough reelection contest, said he, for one, will really be glad to get home to Nevada.

HARRY REID: We may not agree on much, but I think with rare exception all 100 senators want to get out of here and get back to their states.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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