Build Back Better: Dems Ignore Pressure to Include Measure Preventing Taxpayer Dollars From Going to Entities That Use Slave Labor

November 19, 2021

House Democrats ignored pressure from human rights advocates and Republican lawmakers to reinsert into their $1.9 trillion spending bill a measure that would have blocked federal funds from going to Chinese entities that use Uyghur slave labor.

The Democrat-controlled House on Friday passed President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act, which greatly expands spending on social programs and climate issues. Democrats stripped the Uyghur provision last week, which generated outrage from human rights groups and Republicans who pressed for the language to be reinserted. Despite adding at least a dozen last minute amendments to the bill, Democrats did not add the Uyghur provision back into the final text.

The original version of the legislation included a provision to stop taxpayer funds from going to any entity that relies on Uyghur slave labor, an ethnic minority group in China that the Communist government has forced into work camps. The situation was designated as a genocide by the Trump administration. The Biden White House has vowed to combat these ongoing human rights abuses.

When the Uyghur provision was stripped from the bill, Republican congressional officials accused Democrats of trying to appease Beijing amid efforts by the Biden administration to strike a climate accord with the CCP. Climate czar John Kerry, who is leading the push for a climate deal, was also said to be lobbying Democrats to oppose separate legislation that would ban the import of all Chinese-made goods that are produced using Uyghur slave labor, a claim Kerry's office denied.

The removal of this language angered the human rights community and prompted Republican foreign policy leaders to accuse the Biden administration and Democrats of turning a blind eye to the CCP's mass human rights abuses. While Republican lawmakers have pressed Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), to explain why the measure was stripped, they have yet to receive an answer.

"Democrats gave the green light to the CCP to continue their imprisonment and unjust exploitation of over one million Uyghur Muslims by passing their socialist reconciliation bill, which removed protections that prevented our tax dollars from funding entities that use their forced slave labor," Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon. "This un-American abomination of a bill is contradictory for progressives who claim to fight for 'justice.'"

One senior Republican congressional aide told the Free Beacon that he and his colleagues have not been able to get answers as to why the Uyghur provision was stripped, even though it could have attracted Republicans to the larger legislation.

"It's truly shameful that Democrats so brazenly removed a common-sense section prohibiting taxpayer dollars from going to slave labor and seem to have no remorse and no explanation why," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record.

Republicans ultimately boycotted the bill when it passed 220 to 213, with just one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (D., Maine), voting against it. The bill was expected to pass on Thursday evening, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) stalled its passage by delivering a record-breaking eight-hour speech on the House floor that blasted the spending package.

Michael Sobolik, a fellow in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council who has closely tracked the Uyghur issue, said the controversy over the funding provision demonstrates that crimes against the Uyghurs remain a "third rail in Washington."

"It's telling that legislating on Uyghur issues appears to remain a third rail in Washington today," Sobolik told the Free Beacon. "By all accounts, the administration and its congressional allies appear willing to pay a steep price to smooth relations with the Chinese Communist Party—even if the cost is ignoring potential complicity in an ongoing genocide."

Published under: China