Democratic leaders are walking back their promise to hold a vote this week in the House on legislation that would sanction China’s use of slave labor and ban the import of goods made using it, according to the legislative chamber’s vote schedule.
Democratic House Rules chair Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) promised last week after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) that the House would hold a vote this week on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a long-stalled human rights bill that has emerged as a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations. While McGovern indicated on Thursday that the bill would proceed, it is not listed on the House’s official floor schedule.
Democrats in both the House and Senate blocked the bill last week from being included in the annual defense spending package, sparking accusations the Biden administration is quietly lobbying congressional allies to oppose the measure. Climate czar John Kerry, among others, is reportedly concerned the bill would upset China at a critical juncture in the administration’s efforts to ink a climate accord with the CCP.
The ongoing delay is fueling accusations that Democrats are slow-playing the bill at the Biden administration’s request. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act—which would prohibit imports from the Xinjiang region of China, where Uyghurs have been subjected to forced labor, mass surveillance, and detention camps—passed the Senate unanimously in July but has stalled in the House, even though it is widely supported by Republicans and the human rights advocacy community.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, attempted last week to include the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the sprawling annual defense funding bill, but that effort was blocked by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who described the measure as a "poison pill." A senior Rubio aide told the Washington Free Beacon last week that House Democrats are following suit by sitting on the bill.
"[House Democratic leadership has] sat on this bill since July anyway, so clearly they don't want to touch it," the source said.
House Democrats made similar waves last month, when they stripped a measure to sanction Uyghur slave labor from the $1.9 trillion "Build Back Better " package. The original version of the legislation included a provision to stop taxpayer funds from going to any entity that relies on Uyghur slave labor, but it was removed following what sources described as a pressure campaign from Kerry and the Biden State Department.
Update July 30, 2022 7:40 a.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly referred to Nancy Pelosi as "Majority Leader."