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China Competition a Bipartisan Bright Spot in Congress
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China Competition a Bipartisan Bright Spot in Congress

Plus: An early look at the House GOP’s Afghanistan withdrawal investigation.

Rep. Mike Gallagher in 2021. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

It’s not a common sight in this bitterly divided era: The top Republican and top Democrat on a committee earnestly hashing out joint priorities at the start of a new Congress.

But that’s what Reps. Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi did Monday night. The pair huddled in an aisle on the House floor for about half an hour, sharing ideas and taking notes for their Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.

Committee chairs and ranking members often have friendly working relationships but still want to advance very different legislative goals and messaging. The leaders of the new China panel, meanwhile, want to speak with as unified a voice as possible.

“We believe our foreign policy is stronger when Republicans and Democrats are working together,” Gallagher said on Friday.

A consensus has emerged in Congress that the U.S. needs to take a tougher stance against the Chinese government’s growing aggression at home and abroad. The question is whether other divisions in the 118th Congress—potential government shutdowns, debt defaults, or even impeachments—will undermine the bipartisan unity against Beijing.

For now, Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, and Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, have jumped into working together. Last week, as a Chinese spy balloon traversed the continental United States, they issued their first joint statement as leaders of the select committee. 

“The Chinese Communist Party should not have on-demand access to American airspace,” they said. “This incident demonstrates that the CCP threat is not confined to distant shores—it is here at home and we must act to counter this threat.”

Gallagher told reporters Monday night that he expects the panel’s first hearing to come in March, but the schedule isn’t concrete yet. (You can read a comprehensive discussion about his plans for the committee here, if you missed it in December.) Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi agree the committee should hold a hearing early on outlining why it exists. 

“We need to show that it’s a bipartisan concern and also illustrate that this committee is about countering threats—studying, investigating, and countering threats—from the CCP,” Krishnamoorthi told The Dispatch in an interview. “Not a committee to espouse old tropes about people from China or Chinese origin or Chinese Americans or people of Asian heritage.”

Krishnamoorthi said he wants to focus on the Chinese government’s “horrible human rights record and even their attempts to almost mute dissent within the Chinese diaspora around the world.”

He recalled traveling to Taiwan last year with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who met with activists who had been previously jailed, and in some cases tortured, by the Chinese government.

“To see them reunite with her and talk about their experiences really persuaded me that this is a regime, especially under Xi Jinping, that will not tolerate dissent of any kind,” Krishnamoorthi said.

He said the panel’s “perhaps most urgent” challenges to deal with are military and security concerns, with the aim of establishing strong deterrence alongside Taiwan and its neighbors to avoid hostilities with China.

“The idea here is not to launch a new Cold War,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We cannot afford to enter into a new Cold War with any adversary, let alone the CCP. But the only way to prevent that from happening is to uncover the facts, investigate what’s true versus what’s not, counter the threats that exist, and then negotiate and make sure that we’re in a position to get to a resolution of our outstanding issues.”

Afghanistan Investigation Picks Up Steam

Newly empowered House Republicans are probing the Biden administration’s disastrous 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan—and they’ll start the public phase of their investigation soon, according to a senior GOP lawmaker behind the effort.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul told The Dispatch Monday night that the committee will hold an initial hearing on the botched withdrawal by early March at the latest. 

While the details are not final, the first hearing, he said, is expected to feature witnesses from the veteran community and from organizations that were involved in evacuating Afghan allies out of the country after the Taliban claimed power. McCaul said he plans to follow it up with a hearing about women who were left behind in Afghanistan, who are now facing immense restrictions and oppression in their daily lives.

McCaul and his staff are also working to obtain documents about the withdrawal and its planning from the State Department. 

“We’re trying to cooperate and not use subpoena authority until we have to,” he said, adding that his deadline for negotiating with the department is late March. “I hope they’ll be cooperative.”

McCarthy’s Guest to the State of the Union

Human rights advocate and former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom will attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address tonight as a guest of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. It’s the culmination of his past week spent meeting with congressional offices and lawmakers about human rights in Turkey and around the world.

Freedom has reportedly been placed on a terrorist wanted list by Turkish authorities with a $500,000 reward for information leading to his capture. He argues the U.S. government should make clear this kind of repression against an American citizen for exercising free speech is unacceptable. A group of more than 40 Republicans asked the White House last week to consider targeted sanctions against Turkish officials found responsible for the move.

Members are also urging Biden to meet with Freedom. Rep. Lisa McClain, a Michigan Republican, said Monday that she’d prefer Biden discuss the situation with Freedom and take up his case through diplomacy first rather than pursuing sanctions.

Freedom says he has tried to meet with Biden, but his requests have gone unanswered.

“I’m a U.S. citizen and he’s my president, and I want to sit down and have a conversation not about politics but about human rights,” he said.

Freedom may be spending more time on Capitol Hill later this year: He told The Dispatch Rep. Chris Smith, the incoming chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, has asked him to testify before the panel about his experience contending with NBA leaders over human rights in China.

On the Floor

The Senate continues to consider various executive nominations.

The House will consider legislation to end a COVID-19 proof of vaccination requirement for foreign travelers to the United States. Members will also debate measures to overturn recent local D.C. criminal sentencing bills. A full list of bills the House could vote on this week is available here.

Key Hearings

  • The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is hearing testimony from Border Patrol agents about the southern border this morning. Information and video here.
  • The House Financial Services Committee is meeting this morning on combating economic threats from China. Experts will testify, and the panel will consider a slate of related bills, including sanctions and Taiwan deterrence measures. Information and livestream here.
  • Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are meeting this morning for a hearing on Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization. FAA officials and other experts will testify. Lawmakers may ask about several close calls on tarmacs around the country in past weeks, the most recent of which happened in Austin, Texas, over the weekend. Information and livestream here.
  • Three former Twitter officials will appear before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee Wednesday morning for a hearing on Twitter’s response to the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Information and livestream here.
  • The House Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government will hold its first hearing Thursday. Information and livestream here.
  • Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee will meet Thursday morning for a hearing on U.S.-China policy in the era of strategic competition. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is slated to testify. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.