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Q&A: Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Western New York, world issues; Part II

Sen. Charles E. Schumer is at the forefront of Western New York efforts on the Peace Bridge, waterfront and other issues. Last week, he discussed his role in national Democratic politics and the Iraq war. Today, Schumer talks about Judge Samuel Alito and China trade.

Q: You've said confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito was far from "a foregone conclusion." Will you support a filibuster? How will you vote?

A: Supreme Court justice is one of the most powerful positions anyone can hold. It's a lifetime appointment and, with the flick of a pen, you can change people's lives. . . . I believe that one should not come to any conclusions until there are hearings.

Now, Alito has said some things that I would find bothersome. For instance, he's the only justice of a Court of Appeals, that I'm aware of, who has said that the federal government, which has abolished machine guns since 1936, after the John Dillinger days and all the bank robberies, doesn't have the power to do that. That's pretty strong. So I think we have to wait for hearings and see about Alito's judicial philosophy and ways of legal reasoning.

Q: How likely is it that a bill you co-sponsored with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., which would impose tariffs of 27.5 percent on Chinese imports, will come up for a vote?

A: China takes advantage of us. We have seen the devastation in Western New York. It's particularly in manufacturing industries, but it's service industries, as well, where China does not play by the rules of free trade. One of the ways the Chinese hurt us the most is by pegging their currency artificially low. That means, every Chinese import gets about a 27 percent advantage and every American export gets about a 27 percent disadvantage. That is totally unfair. I've met manufacturers here in Western New York who say, "You know what? The Chinese have cheaper labor, but I have better, more efficient labor. I can beat them head-to-head but not if they get an additional 27 percent advantage."

So the bipartisan bill Graham and I have says, "Hey, China. Let your currency float or we are, in effect, going to make it equal on our own." Go talk to an unemployed worker who has lost a good-paying job and tell him that we should just let the Chinese decide on their own timetable.

And, frankly, neither the previous administrations nor this administration pushed the Chinese the way they should. So our bill has finally gotten some traction. The Chinese have officially said they would let their currency flow, and they've raised it a small amount -- 2.1 percent. But that's not good enough. We will ask our bill to be voted on, if the Chinese don't make further movement.

As to when, I don't want to say because this is a careful negotiation.

Q: Wouldn't American workers and consumers be hurt by a retaliatory tariff from China?

A: No. This is real free trade. Some people say we get cheaper goods from China, and that's true. But if we lose all our jobs and all our wealth here, we're not going to have much money to buy anything. So we have to do it fairly. You don't build walls and say the Chinese can't come in, but you do say they've got to play fair.

Q: How healthy and effective is New York's delegation to Congress?

A: The New York delegation is working together in a very unified way. I work very closely with the whole Western New York delegation, Democrats and Republicans. I think we worked together far more effectively than we did 10 years ago. The New York delegation realizes that united we can get far more done together than if we are divided.

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