Climate Groups to Democrats: 'Don't Antagonize China'

Plus: Republicans on the January 6 commission and fencing coming off the Capitol grounds.

Happy Friday. Let’s get to the news.

Climate Groups: Don’t Antagonize China

In recent years, lawmakers from both parties have grown more hawkish against China, which has become an increasingly pushy economic and political bully in international affairs. But some progressive groups are trying to change that, pressuring the Biden administration and congressional Democrats to ease up on China in the name of climate change. 

In a letter signed by more than 40 progressive groups addressed to President Biden and members of Congress, signatories stressed that the current track of the U.S./China relationship could lead to frayed cooperation between the two countries on climate issues: “We are deeply troubled by the growing Cold War mentality driving the United States' approach to China—an antagonistic posture that risks undermining much-needed climate cooperation.”

The U.S.-China relationship, the groups argued, should be viewed through the lens of cooperation, not competition.

“Amid a climate emergency that is wreaking havoc on communities across the globe, the path to a livable future demands new internationalism rooted in global cooperation, resource sharing, and solidarity,” the letter said.  “Nothing less than the future of our planet depends on ending the new Cold War between the United States and China.” 

The Biden administration has said that when it comes to China, human rights abuses committed by the autocracy are the most important issue, even more troubling than environmental concerns. While addressing reporters at a press briefing at the White House, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said just that, “Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate.  That’s not going to happen. … Nothing is going to be siphoned off into one area from another.” 

In particular, the Biden administration has prioritized boxing products with ties to forced labor out of U.S. markets. On Friday, the U.S. added 14 Chinese entities to its economic blacklist that are believed to be complicit in human rights abuses and forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region. The blacklist means American firms will have to obtain clearance from the U.S. government before doing business with those companies.

“The Department of Commerce remains firmly committed to taking strong, decisive action to target entities that are enabling human rights abuses in Xinjiang or that use U.S. technology to fuel China’s destabilizing military modernization efforts,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

The administration also recently ordered a ban on important material included in making solar panels from the Chinese company Hoshine Silicon Industry because of its connection to forced labor camps. The Commerce Department, according to reports, also levied a ban on three more Chinese companies and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps because of their involvement in forced labor of Uighurs and other minority Muslim groups. 

Progressives are hoping to see the Biden administration leave room for negotiating with China on climate issues, an approach that could mean  de-prioritizing human rights in some respects.

“We need to distinguish between justified criticisms of the Chinese government’s human rights record and a Cold War mentality that uses China as a scapegoat for our own domestic problems and demonizes Chinese Americans,” Rep. Ilhan Omar said back in May.

Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont wrote an op-ed in Foreign Affairs warning that the White House’s position could hurt cooperation on global issues, including climate change. “I fear,” he wrote, “that the growing bipartisan push for a confrontation with China will set back those goals and risks empowering authoritarian, ultranationalistic forces in both countries.” Sanders argued that the two nations have “shared common interests” in “combating truly existential threats such as climate change, pandemics, and the destruction that a nuclear war would bring.”

Climate-focused Republicans disagree with this approach, and say that even on the climate, the United States should take a more confrontational approach to China.

“It’s irresponsible to place the U.S. at the center of the problem when China is the clear aggressor here,” Rebekah Hoshiko, communications director for the Republican members of the House Committee on Natural Resources, told The Dispatch. “We need to call a spade a spade. China is the leading polluter, and messaging agreements like the Paris Climate Accords (the standards of which they ignore) are doing absolutely nothing to hold them accountable.” 


McCarthy to Name Members to January 6 Commission

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is expected any day to announce which of his colleagues he will appoint to the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

There was some question at first about whether McCarthy would forgo tasking any Republicans with participating in the Democrat-led investigation. However, as Uphill previously reported, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the investigation would continue with or without bipartisan participation: the panel already has a “quorum,” or the minimum number of voting members needed, to get to work.

McCarthy is expected to announce five of his colleagues to fill the remaining spots on the committee. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a Trump ally and Freedom Caucus co-founder, is seen as a likely pick. He already has a high-profile position as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Other names floated include Rep. Elise Stefanik, newly minted as the House GOP Conference Chair, and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who served as a defender of Trump during his impeachment in 2019.

Whoever McCarthy picks will go head-to-head not only with the Democratic members of the commission, but also with Rep. Liz Cheney, whom Pelosi appointed to serve on the Democratic side. Besides Cheney, there are seven Democrats: Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Adam Schiff, and Pete Aguilar of California, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who is committee chair.

On June 30, the House voted in favor of establishing the select committee in a near party-line vote. The move to establish a congressionally directed committee came after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have established an independent commission, replete with outside experts, to investigate the insurrection. That bill had already passed the House.

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were the only Republicans to cross the aisle and vote in favor.


Capitol Police, Tear Down This Fence!

Six months after the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the remaining metal security fencing surrounding the complex is set to come down. The removal, which was authorized by the U.S. Capitol Police Board, will begin as soon as Friday. There will still be limited public access to the Capitol, however.

The fences have been a bleak reminder of the day that mobs overwhelmed Capitol Police forces to breach the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify the 2020 election results.

A memo sent Wednesday to lawmakers and staff by House Sergeant at Arms William Walker said the barriers will come down within three days if weather permits. The memo notes that the fence can be quickly reinstalled if the need arises.

The Capitol Police Board is a three-member panel composed of the sergeants at arms of the House of Representatives and the Senate and the Architect of the Capitol.

Back in March, the Board authorized the removal of a three-mile outer perimeter fence that had blocked roads, forcing cars and pedestrians to take longer routes and preventing access to spots like the Library of Congress. Thousands of National Guard troops, who spent weeks guarding the perimeter, were sent home in May. But despite the security downscaling, an interior fence has remained, decorated with warning signs that the area remained closed to the public. Back in February, the Capitol Police said the fence might stay until September.

On Tuesday, the Capitol Police released a memo highlighting a number of changes made in the wake of the attack. One of the most notable changes underway: The department will open Regional Field Offices in the states of California and Florida—and perhaps other locations in the future—a recognition that threats to lawmakers’ safety extend beyond their time in Washington, D.C.

The press release also noted that so far, more than 500 people are facing federal crime charges from the riot. Investigations by federal agents into many others are ongoing.


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Of Note

Toyota to cease donations to election objectors

The Atlantic profiles Sen. Mitch McConnell

Why Ireland is so opposed to a global minimum corporate tax

The Wall Street Journal talks to folks who got master’s degrees in fields that don’t pay enough to get rid of student loans

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