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House GOP’s China Task Force offers plenty of bipartisan proposals

A number of the 180 legislative proposals could become law in a lame duck defense bill

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, was among the members touting bipartisan policy recommendations as part of the House GOP's China Task Force.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, was among the members touting bipartisan policy recommendations as part of the House GOP's China Task Force. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

How the U.S. should respond to China both economically and militarily has been an increasingly charged political topic, but many of the legislative suggestions unveiled Wednesday as part of House Republicans’ China Task Force actually have a chance to eventually become law.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP leaders criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for not participating in the task force, which McCarthy said he had wanted to set up on a bipartisan basis. But McCarthy and the task force chairman, Michael McCaul of Texas, emphasized the inclusion of many recommendations from Democrats.

“One of my greatest prides in the China Task Force? More than 60 percent of all the ideas in here are bipartisan, the way the process worked through,” McCarthy said.

McCaul cited a bipartisan effort to bring semiconductor chip production to the United States from overseas.

“These advanced semiconductor chips are critical to our national security, and so we worked across the aisle in the House” and with senators “to get that language on the national defense authorization bill,” said McCaul, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

McCaul said he thought a number of the proposals could become law, perhaps as part of the NDAA, after the election.

To that point, a third of the 180 legislative proposals have already passed either the House or Senate, according to a House GOP aide. According to an appendix to the document, many of those have been included in the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill, which is currently the subject of negotiations between the House and Senate.

Speaking at an event for the unveiling on Wednesday, Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher highlighted bipartisan, bicameral legislation to effectively block 5G network companies like Huawei from the U.S. financial system if they undertake industrial espionage or run afoul of sanctions. That bill has supporters ranging from House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat.

“I don’t know of another issue in American politics that united me and Chuck Schumer as closely as countering the Chinese Communist Party,” Gallagher said, also citing his work with Maine independent Sen. Angus King on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

House Armed Services ranking member Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican, has been among the champions of setting up a new Indo-Pacific Security Initiative within the Pentagon, and the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee included a similar proposal in that chamber’s defense authorization bill. The fund is akin to the existing European Deterrence Initiative, which is focused on guaranteeing resources for the U.S. and allies to counter Russia.

That’s certainly not all. The bill includes language in a measure from Utah GOP Rep. John Curtis and Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey that would recognize as a human rights abuse the kind of surveillance technology used by the Chinese government against the Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

“Congress recognizes how vital these bills are. Currently, the Foreign Advanced Technology Surveillance Accountability Act is included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the House and I will work to ensure it remains in the NDAA’s final passage,” Curtis said in a statement. “The oppression of the Uyghurs, facilitated by artificial intelligence, biometric data collection, and facial recognition is unprecedented and the U.S. is taking steps to combat it.”

Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr, representing the Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee, pointed to including a recommendation to enact legislation led in the House by Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California.

“That is a mirror image of the legislation that passed the Senate,” Barr said. “We want to protect investors and also prevent Chinese state-owned enterprises from accessing our capital markets to benefit China’s military-civil fusion.”

Barr also referenced the bipartisan backing in the defense bill for secondary sanctions on supporters of North Korea that would be applied to Chinese banks.

In an interview, Rep. Jim Banks, a task force member, highlighted both economic and defense recommendations that he thought could have broad support.

“I would start with defense innovation, new technologies, working with Silicon Valley to boost our defense capabilities,” the Indiana Republican said, adding that beyond that, “I would probably focus on the economic component related to our trade relationship with China.”

Curtis also pointed to an upcoming bipartisan Hong Kong package at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, again working with Malinowski.

“The recent takeover of Hong Kong, in clear violation of numerous international agreements and laws, is a power grab we have not seen in the world since the days of the Cold War — Congress’s response has been unified and forceful,” he said.

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