Lawmakers Look to Advance Sweeping Effort to Counter China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

U.S. lawmakers expect sweeping legislation to boost the country’s ability to push back against China will advance through a Senate panel on Wednesday, after weeks of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee members were set to debate the “Strategic Competition Act of 2021” and consider amendments, before voting on whether to send it for a vote in the 100-member Senate.

“We’re really pleased that there is such a high degree of bipartisan consensus on this piece of legislation and on how to approach China and the Indo-Pacific region more broadly,” a Democratic congressional aide told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.

The 280-page bill, details of which were first reported by Reuters on April 8, addresses economic competition with China, but also humanitarian and democratic values, such as imposing sanctions over the treatment of the minority Muslim Uighurs and supporting democracy in Hong Kong.

Committee members filed some 150 amendments, the aide said.

The bill is part of a fast-track effort announced in February by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass a wide range of legislation to counter China.

“Having something that is embedded into the statutory framework, that is durable and enduring, is really important, particularly if you’re looking at the sort of competition that we envisage with the People’s Republic of China in the years and decades ahead,” the aide said.

The measure also calls for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, which still must be arranged.

“We’ve got to make sure the money is there,” the aide said. “If you don’t resource a strategy, you don’t actually have a strategy. We are acutely aware of the need to make sure that the resources are aligned with the enormity and scale of the challenge that we face across every dimension of power.”