Blue Dogs Call on Congress to Investigate Chinese Government’s Actions Regarding COVID-19
WASHINGTON—The members of the Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to House leadership this week calling on them to pursue bipartisan mechanisms to gather the facts regarding the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak and throughout the pandemic.
Specifically, the Blue Dogs called for the establishment of a bipartisan Commission to assess the United States’ preparation for and response to COVID-19, the Chinese government’s many errors at the onset of the outbreak, and the United States’ over-reliance on China for critical supplies. They also called for the leadership’s support of a federal inquiry into how the CCP might seek to exploit the epidemic to advance its foreign policy objectives to the detriment of the United States and our allies. Finally, the Blue Dogs called on Congress to prioritize coordination and evaluation of China policy through a structure that has bipartisan support, such as a task force, a select committee, or another means.
The letter was signed by all members of Blue Dog Coalition leadership, Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Lou Correa (CA-46), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), and Kurt Schrader (OR-05), as well as the Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Task Force on National Security, Reps. Kendra Horn (OK-05) and Max Rose (NY-11). Additionally, the following members signed the letter: Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), Rep. Charlie Crist (FL-13), Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Rep. Joe Cunningham (SC-01), Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (IL-03), Rep. Ben McAdams (UT-04), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02).
See below for the full text:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader Hoyer, and Whip Scalise:
We write as leaders of the Blue Dog Coalition who believe the United States should craft and conduct national security policy in a way that protects our interests, promotes our values, and—to the greatest extent possible—reflects bipartisan agreement between Democrats and Republicans. We are strongest internationally when we are united domestically, and weakest on the global stage when we are divided along partisan lines. Our adversaries, whether they are nation-states or non-state actors, recognize this fact. They seek, in a variety of ways, to turn Americans against one another. We should be hyper-vigilant not to let them succeed.
We also believe that the U.S.-China relationship—a complex mix of competition and cooperation—is arguably the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world. U.S. policymakers in the executive and legislative branches should approach the relationship in a strong, smart, and strategic way. We should stand up for American lives, interests and values whenever they are threatened, while avoiding overheated rhetoric that could undermine those goals.
For our part, we have respect for the Chinese people and admiration for the country’s culture and traditions. We also value the contributions that Chinese-Americans have made in this country over generations. At the same time, we have profound concerns about the direction of Chinese policy under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), especially its foreign and defense policy, its trade policy, and its human rights record.
Our concerns have only intensified in light of the Chinese government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 epidemic, which originated in China and has had severe health and economic effects in virtually every country. The Chinese government—true to form—has refused to honestly acknowledge its central role in the emergence and spread of the virus, and has bullied individuals and nations that have called for a full and fair accounting of events to reduce the chance they will be repeated. We cannot let the Chinese government’s campaign of dishonesty and disinformation continue without consequence, especially when it is placing American lives in danger.
In light of the foregoing, we would like to respectfully make three requests.
First, the Blue Dog Coalition has endorsed bipartisan legislation, H.R. 6429, which would create an independent commission on COVID-19, along the lines of the successful 9/11 Commission. While Commission members would mainly assess our own country’s preparation for and response to COVID-19, which has been deficient in key respects, it would also examine the Chinese government’s many errors of commission and omission, as well as the United States’ over-reliance on China for critical supplies. We ask that you include H.R. 6429, or language resembling it, in a future bill.
Second, we support a federal inquiry into how the CCP might seek to exploit the epidemic to advance its foreign policy objectives to the detriment of the United States and our allies. Congress should direct the U.S. national security establishment to prepare and publish this analysis in both classified and unclassified form. This legislative directive could be contained in the forthcoming National Defense Authorization Act, the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill, or the Defense appropriations bill. We look forward to working with you on this matter.
Finally, we regret the decision to establish a partisan “China Task Force” that politicizes an otherwise largely bipartisan area of policy. The Task Force’s partisan nature undermines its potential effectiveness and sends the wrong message to government authorities in Beijing. We appreciate that there are already two congressionally-created commissions—the Congressional-Executive Committee on China and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission—that analyze and make recommendations to Congress on various aspects of the China challenge. Like these commissions, the “China Task Force” lacks legislative authority.
We urge Democratic and Republican leaders to work together to prioritize House consideration of tough, smart, and bipartisan legislation on China, using the existing committee structure and undertaking any other mutually-agreeable effort to enhance information-sharing and cooperation on cross-jurisdictional matters. If such an effort were to be adopted by House leadership, we know many Blue Dogs would welcome it and be eager to participate.
It is imperative for Members of Congress to work across party lines if we want to influence Chinese policy and to hold the CCP accountable when its actions cross the line, as they have in the case of COVID-19. If we retreat to our partisan corners, we will only weaken the United States, strengthen China, and play into the hands of those who want China to replace the United States as the world’s preeminent power.
Under the leadership of the Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition’s Task Force on National Security, Reps. Max Rose (NY-11) and Kendra Horn (OK-05), the Blue Dogs have a strong record of holding the Chinese government accountable for reckless actions ranging from election meddling to funneling illicit Fentanyl into our streets.
Last year, the Blue Dog Coalition-endorsed Fentanyl Sanctions Act was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. Introduced by Blue Dog members Reps. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) and Max Rose (NY-11), the Fentanyl Sanctions Act included hard-hitting sanctions against drug manufacturers in China who knowingly funnel illicit Fentanyl—a deadly drug that is fueling the opioid epidemic—into the United States.
As part of the Blue Dog Coalition’s election security proposal, the Coalition backed the bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which is intended to deter future interference attempts by Russia and other adversaries, including China, Iran, and North Korea. It would do so by defining actions of foreign governments or agents acting on behalf of a foreign government that would illicit retaliation from the United States through sanctions. The Blue Dog Coalition’s election security proposal also called for requiring the Trump administration to present Congress with a comprehensive strategy to prevent U.S. election interference by China, Iran, North Korea, or any other foreign state of significant concern.