House Republicans Raise Concerns About Soft China Bill, Demand Tougher Response

By Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan is White House economic policy reporter in Washington, D.C. Previously she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan and as a consultant at PwC. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
June 7, 2021 Updated: June 8, 2021

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a sweeping China bill this week to counter Beijing’s rising economic might and global influence. While it’s unclear how quickly the legislation could move through the House of Representatives, several Republicans in the chamber are opposing a companion bill that attempts to water down some of the provisions in the Senate bill pertaining to human rights and Taiwan.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on May 18 unveiled the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, the renamed and expanded version of his Endless Frontier Act. The comprehensive bill, which is now 1,445 pages, aims to boost government support for science and technology, to address increasing competition from China.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on June 8 after considering a few final amendments, and a 60-vote threshold is needed for final approval of the bill.

“It will be one of the most important things we’ve done in a very long time,” Schumer said on June 7 on the Senate floor, calling it the “largest investment” in scientific research and technological innovation in decades.

The final bill is the product of more than 20 amendments and several bipartisan bills. If approved in the Senate, the House could pass the Senate-approved bill or call for a conference to resolve differences between bills.

To boost U.S. economic competitiveness and combat China’s economic influence, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced on May 25 legislation called the “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement,” or EAGLE, Act.

While many of the provisions in the bill mirror those in the Senate bill, some language in the bill related to Taiwan has been removed or softened.

For example, the EAGLE Act removes the language in the Senate bill that asks for the U.S. government to defend “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the United Nations.” In addition, it omits the text in the Senate bill that states that the United States should “strenuously oppose any action by the People’s Republic of China to use force to change the status quo of Taiwan.”

Further analysis by The Epoch Times also showed that several sections that detailed the U.S. response to China’s aggression against Taiwan in the Senate bill have been either removed or altered in the House version.

Some House Republicans raised concerns about these changes and called for bipartisan action.

“We need to come together in a bipartisan manner to respond with tough legislation that holds the CCP accountable for its aggression toward its neighbors and its abuses at home,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

The U.S. response to threats from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “has been strikingly lacking to date,” according to Chabot, who is also the ranking GOP member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia.

“Right now, the Senate is in the middle of completing a bipartisan bill to rise to this challenge. The initial House version of the legislation, on the other hand, is not as strong on several key issues from our support for Taiwan’s democracy, to an appropriate response to Beijing’s genocide against the Uyghurs, to even how we approach the 2022 Beijing Olympics,” he said.

The House bill also removes the section that calls for the “Imposition of sanctions with respect to systematic rape, coercive abortion, forced sterilization, or involuntary contraceptive implantation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”

It also drops the texts with respect to boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics and a requirement for reporting on the origins of the COVID–19 pandemic.

“There are some parts of this bill that are concerning, so I’m hopeful the Chairman [Meeks] will be ready to work with Republicans on the committee to strengthen it,” Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) said in an emailed statement. “Confronting the CCP isn’t a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It’s an American issue. And that’s the way we should approach this legislation—together as Americans.”

In response, a Democratic aide at the committee said that the criticisms do not accurately represent what is in the bill.

“The EAGLE Act is not a companion to the Senate bill, which is why the language does not mirror it. Republicans who attempt to mischaracterize discrepancies between the bills as omissions should give the EAGLE act a more thorough read,” the committee aide said.

“The bill has far stronger human rights provisions than the Senate bill. For instance, it explicitly calls what is happening in Xinjiang a genocide and includes sanctions, import restrictions, as well as special refugee provisions for impacted populations. The bill also addresses Taiwan and the situation in Hong Kong and puts forward clear policy responses that signal the return of U.S. diplomacy and leadership to the international arena,” the committee aide said, adding that the report on the origins of COVID-19 was passed in a separate budget bill and the mark up will include a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

While the bill in the Senate is expected to pass by a large margin, some GOP senators earlier voiced concerns about the legislation, calling it full of wasteful spending.

The bill would authorize about $190 billion in spending for scientific research and development and $52 billion in funding to boost semiconductor production in the United States.

Co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Todd Young’s (R-Ind.) office voiced optimism about the Senate vote this week, when asked if the legislation would face opposition from Republicans.

“This is the largest, boldest, most sweeping anti-Chinese Communist Party legislation in American history. Senator Young is happy with the open, bipartisan process and looks forward to the bill coming to the floor tomorrow,” a spokesperson for Young said.

This article was updated on June 8, 2021.

Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan is White House economic policy reporter in Washington, D.C. Previously she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan and as a consultant at PwC. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.