House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans Oppose Democrat-Led Version of China Counterweight Bill

As the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee is about to take up a bill aimed at improving competitiveness against China and pressuring Beijing on human rights issues, Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee have said they oppose the Democratic-led bill. That means the Foreign Affairs Committee could advance the bill this week with only Democratic support.

A spokesman for Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he opposes the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act. The bill is known as the Eagle Act. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider the bill on Wednesday (June 30).

In a deeply divided U.S. Congress, the desire to take a tough stance in dealing with China is one of the few real cross-party understandings. President Biden’s fellow Democrats control both houses of Congress with slim majorities.

However, the two parties disagree on the strategy of how best to deal with China. For example, Republicans oppose provisions in the Eagle Act that authorize funding for climate initiatives.

Republicans also say they believe too many of the actions called for in the Eagle Act are simply launching studies, which would miss opportunities to take substantive action, such as tightening controls on technology exports and regulating access to certain sensitive personal data, such as Americans’ health information.

A Republican aide told Reuters, “This bill is largely just sending a message.”

The Eagle Act was introduced in May by House Foreign Affairs Committee Democratic Chairman Gregory Meeks (R-CA).

On June 8, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (ICA) package of bills designed to counter China by an overwhelming 68 to 32 vote. The bill, formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act, authorizes about $190 billion to strengthen U.S. technology and research and approves $54 billion to increase U.S. production and research and development in semiconductors and telecommunications equipment.

But the House decided to introduce its own version, rather than bringing the Senate version directly to consideration and vote. This process means that it could take months to complete a bill that is unanimous in both chambers and send it to Biden for signature into law.