House Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill

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Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) arrives to his weekly on-camera press conference with reporters on Thursday, January 13, 2022.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) arrives to his weekly on-camera press conference with reporters on Thursday, January 13, 2022.


The bid by House Democrats to win Republican support for sweeping legislation to counter China's economic influence has quickly fallen flat, as GOP lawmakers wasted no time panning the proposal as a partisan creation cobbled together by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Introduced Tuesday evening, the massive package is designed to boost U.S. innovation, promote the domestic production of scarce computer chips and thaw the supply chain freeze that's led to skyrocketing inflation.

To entice Republican backing, it features numerous individual bills that have already passed through the House with broad bipartisan support, including that of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Yet leading Republicans quickly hammered the package as a partisan power play on the part of Pelosi, pointing to "poison-pill" provisions opposed unanimously by Republicans and warning that the legislation will likely garner not a single GOP vote when it hits the House floor as soon as next week.

"Contrary to the false statements put out by the White House and congressional Democrats, this is absolutely NOT a bipartisan bill and will likely garner no Republican support," read a statement from the office of Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It was hastily thrown together behind closed doors in a process with no Republican input and is being jammed through the House."

The debate arrives as President Biden and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to stave off the damaging effects of the latest COVID-19 surge, which has roiled the economy in a perfect storm of labor shortages, demand spikes and supply chain gridlock that, combined, have triggered a surge in inflation.

The House legislation, dubbed the America Competes Act, is designed to relieve those conditions by providing tens of billions of dollars to grease the supply chain and promote the domestic production of critical goods, including semiconductor computer chips crucial to products like cars and phones.

Among its chief provisions, the package authorizes $45 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees through the Department of Commerce to help strengthen supply chains in the form of enhancing manufacturing facilities and creating surge capacity.

The package also includes measures to increase funding for National Science Foundation and Department of Energy research, which the House previously passed last summer on a bipartisan basis with support from GOP leaders.

Yet the sprawling legislation also features more controversial provisions designed to combat human trafficking, impose sanctions on China for its human rights abuses against the Uyghurs, and tackle global climate change, to which Beijing is a leading contributor. The summary alone runs to 109 pages.

The partisan jockeying over the House legislation marks a sharp departure from the dynamics surrounding the debate in the Senate, where a version of the bill was passed last summer with 18 Republicans joining every Democrat in support.

Of course, GOP support matters less in the House, where the Democratic majority can act unilaterally on their own. But Democrats will eventually have to get at least 10 Republicans on board in the Senate to overcome the chamber's rules requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation.

Both Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged to iron out the differences between the two chambers' bills and get the compromise package to Biden's desk - a process Schumer says will happen "quickly."

Yet the fierce opposition from House Republicans heralds a noisy fight in the meantime. And it foreshadows a debate similar to that over last year's $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which garnered broad bipartisan backing in the Senate but won only 13 Republican supporters in the House.

The lopsided nature of that vote, combined with the popularity of infrastructure projects across party lines, has made it a major campaign issue - touching on a host of prickly topics like global warming, deficit spending and the role of the federal government in everyday life - heading into November's midterms.

It's a debate likely to be magnified by the Democrats' new America Competes Act, which is already sparking partisan battles over those same thorny issues.

Indeed, McCaul is focusing on one element of the package, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.), which contains climate provisions designed to hold China accountable for its greenhouse gas emissions. That includes contributions of $8 billion over two years to the Green Climate Fund established by the United Nations to help developing countries respond to climate change.

McCaul said the inclusion of that bill, known as the Eagle Act, "proves Democrat leaders are not serious about confronting" China.

"The EAGLE Act authorizes more taxpayer money to pour into an unaccountable UN climate slush fund than it does to counter the CCP," McCaul said in a statement. "It reflects virtually no Republican input, and - to be frank - will be dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate."

Other Republicans are piling on. Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said the legislation is insufficient to confront the threat posed by China, but instead "throws billions at unrelated issues that have nothing to do with our national security." He cited a study of coral reefs as just one example.

And Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, said House Democrats have dashed an opportunity to mesh Senate-passed legislation with the House-passed proposals to increase funding for U.S. research and development capabilities in the science and technology fields.

"Now that Speaker Pelosi has finally decided to act, she has done so with no regard for all of this bipartisan work," Lucas charged in a statement. "Instead of focusing on strong consensus policies, she's filled her package with poison pills with no bipartisan support."

Just one Republican expressed support for components of the package unveiled by Democrats.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) has increasingly crossed party lines in the past year - including to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and raising the debt limit - amid his criticisms of the GOP for its embrace of former President Trump.

Kinzinger signed onto a statement with six other Democrats praising the legislation's inclusion of their proposals to promote domestic production of critical goods and services, such as creating an office in the Department of Commerce specifically charged with supply chain resiliency and crisis response.

Kinzinger said he is "pleased the House is improving upon what the Senate has passed" and that they now "have a marker to continue this work and provide national and economic security for the American people."

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, are brushing off the GOP criticisms, saying they're bullish about the prospects of combining the House and Senate bills and notching a big victory for Biden, even as another huge piece of his domestic agenda - the Build Back Better Act - languishes in the Senate. And, after months waiting for the House response to the Senate's China competition bill, they're not wasting any time.

The House Rules Committee has announced that it's likely to consider the America Competes Act next week, advising lawmakers to submit any amendments by Friday. Twenty-five members of the New Democrat Coalition, including several who face competitive reelection races this year, wrote to Pelosi on Wednesday urging the Speaker to put the legislation "at the top of the agenda."

And Biden is already hailing Congress's "commitment to quick action to get this to my desk as soon as possible."

"Together, we have an opportunity to show China and the rest of the world that the 21st century will be the American century," he said.

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