House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) made eyebrow-raising changes to a piece of China legislation moving through his committee, slashing sections relating to vital national security issues and tucking in $8 billion to address climate change through a global slush fund.
Meeks introduced the EAGLE Act—the House version of the bipartisan Strategic Competition Act—in May and included measures to boost a global climate change plan while eviscerating sections related to affirming support for Taiwan. Meeks also rejected several suggestions from House Republicans on national security challenges related to the Chinese Communist Party.
Measures intended to take a stand on climate change may end up lining China's pockets rather than checking Beijing. The Green Climate Fund, an international organization backed by the United Nations, would receive $4 billion in both 2022 and 2023 through the Meeks bill. The fund has already sent some $100 million to China in the hopes of reducing global emissions. China, however, uses forced labor in its climate change efforts and no mechanisms are present in the bill to keep American tax dollars apart from the forced labor supply chain.
House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R., Texas) told the Washington Free Beacon Democrats missed an opportunity to do "meaningful" work in countering China, and that the House package is a "climate bill masquerading as a foreign policy bill."
"Democrats passed up the opportunity to work on a meaningful, bipartisan legislation to counter the threats of the Chinese Communist Party and instead made it another green energy bill," McCaul said. "Any China-focused legislation must restrict the CCP's access to our technology, counter propaganda, take action against CCP military companies, and ensure we are protecting both Americans' sensitive data and U.S. businesses from CCP coercion. The EAGLE Act is a climate bill masquerading as a foreign policy bill and doesn't take the generational threat posed by the CCP seriously."
Meeks did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The House bill follows a pattern of several other Democrat-led China programs, which have often veered into ambitious domestic programs or liberal initiatives, rather than focusing on confronting Chinese human rights abuses or military buildup. In an April address to Congress, President Joe Biden played up the need for universal preschool as a means to outcompeting China in the 21st century. The White House's defense budget funding request homes in on adapting the Pentagon to combat climate change, even as it dealt heavy blows to vital shipbuilding and Pacific security programs designed to combat China.
Support for Taiwanese democracy is also lacking in the Democrat-led package. Republicans requested provisions to deter China from using force against Taiwan, as well as several diplomatic changes that would allow the United States government to more closely cooperate with Taiwan. Rep. Steve Chabot (R., Ohio) said the Meeks bill falls short on the Taiwan issue, among several others.
"The Chinese Communist Party is without question our top geopolitical threat, but the U.S. response to its quest for regional, and ultimately global, dominance has been strikingly lacking to date," Chabot said. "The initial House version of the legislation is not as strong on several key issues from our support for Taiwan's democracy, to an appropriate response to Beijing's genocide against the Uyghurs."
Companies affiliated with the Chinese military also may benefit from the Democrats' objections to amendments. One measure suggested by Republicans would step up enforcement of the Department of Commerce's banned entity list, which is designed to prevent Chinese regime partners from winning federal contracts. A Republican staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the Free Beacon the legislation showed a "box-checking" mentality among House Democrats, who care more about messaging than getting serious about China.
"For them to put forward these sorts of political poison pills and undermine a bipartisan consensus on China is extremely concerning," the aide said. "Even without the climate provision, they've treated the most consequential foreign policy issue as a box-checking exercise where they can just recycle content and claim a number of reports and findings will actually reorient the U.S. government to this generational challenge. They just wanted to get something out as quickly as possible without being serious on the issues."
The bill will undergo markup on Wednesday.