A top Republican is touting the anti-Chinese Communist Party provisions in the massive omnibus legislation that overwhelmingly passed Congress this week but has met resistance from President Trump due to his objections to its foreign spending and his desire to increase the size of the $600 direct-payment coronavirus relief checks.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, put out a press release highlighting how numerous provisions in the legislative package add to the growing U.S. crackdown on alleged Chinese government wrongdoing within its borders and abroad. The legislation, which passed the House and Senate, includes $900 billion related to coronavirus relief and a dozen catch-all appropriations bills tied together in an omnibus totaling $1.4 trillion to fund the federal government.
“The 21st century will be defined by the U.S.-China relationship, and we must take action to address the imbalances in the relationship, as well as the systematic human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “I am proud of the important work we’ve accomplished with both my Democrat and Republican colleagues, including the critical provisions that were included in the year-end funding bill, to hold the Chinese government and Communist Party accountable.”
Tucked within the sprawling legislation are bills and provisions supporting Tibetans and Uighurs against Chinese government oppression, defending Taiwan against Chinese aggression, money set aside to oppose Chinese malign foreign influence, and funding to “rip and replace” equipment from Chinese telecom giant Huawei with secure U.S. systems.
The overall legislative package is 5,593 pages, and included within the $900 billion in COVID-19 relief is a $300 per week unemployment subsidy totaling $120 billion, $284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans as part of $325 billion to small businesses, $82 billion to schools, $25 billion in rental assistance, $55 billion for vaccine development and for testing and tracing, and $166 billion in direct check payments totaling $600 for each adult.
Trump lambasted the billions in foreign aid contained in the various omnibus bills as well as money for Smithsonian museums and the Kennedy Center in a Tuesday speech on Twitter, though much of that money had been requested by the Trump administration’s budget proposal.
“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000,” Trump said, adding, “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items of this legislation and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package — and maybe that administration will be me.” Some Republicans and leading Democrats are calling for that amount to be passed before Christmas. President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated Jan. 20.
The Tibetan Policy and Support Act was one of many bills passed through the omnibus, and it calls upon the secretary of state “to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet” and says the U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan Issues should “encourage” China’s government “to address the aspirations of the Tibetan people” and should “promote the human rights and religious freedoms of the Tibetan people.” The act says “interference” by the Chinese government “in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama would represent a clear violation of the fundamental religious freedoms of Tibetan Buddhists.”
The omnibus also includes language from the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which requires the secretary of state to determine whether the persecution of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang constitute atrocities, and says, “The determination … shall be submitted to the appropriate congressional committees not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act.”
Congress also passed the Taiwanese Assurance Act, which calls upon the State Department to enhance its diplomatic policies toward the country. The bill also warns that “Taiwan and its diplomatic partners continue to face sustained pressure and coercion from the People’s Republic of China” and says that the U.S. “should conduct regular sales and transfers of defense articles to Taiwan” and that the U.S. should “advocate for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the United Nations, the World Health Assembly … and other international bodies.”
In addition, the omnibus includes $300 million for a “Countering Chinese Influence Fund” to combat ”the malign influence of the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party and entities acting on their behalf globally.”
The legislation funds the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act, providing $1.9 billion to rural telecommunications operators to “rip and replace” Huawei and ZTE components from their networks. The Federal Communications Commission designated the Chinese telecoms “national security threats” this summer, banning them from accessing the $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund.
Also within the omnibus is the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2021, which calls for an assessment on U.S. efforts “to identify and mitigate risks posed to the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense by the use of direct-to-consumer genetic testing” by China, requires the CIA, National Security Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency to put together a report that “describes the United States intelligence sharing and military posture in Five Eyes countries that currently have or intend to use adversary telecommunications” provided by Russia or China, mandates an intelligence report on the “biosecurity risk and disinformation” by China, and requires the director of national intelligence to produce a report “identifying whether and how CCP officials … may have sought to suppress or exploit for national advantage information regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic.”
The Florida Republican’s press release highlighted new funding “to support public diplomacy activities of Regional China Officers” at U.S. consulates, language requiring universities to disclose foreign gifts related to Confucius Institutes, and the creation of a new full-time position at the State Department to coordinate interagency action against “illegal, unreported, and unregulated” fishing, “an activity of which China is the biggest offender.”
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