Drone Pilot JobsPartisan Gridlock Over China Bill

July 6, 2021by helo-10

Welcome again, friends and readers, to Foreign Policy’s SitRep. Jack and Robbie here, back for another rundown on all things national security in Washington. 

So before you stock up on fireworks and hotdogs for the holiday weekend, let’s dive into the big news of the week.

Here’s what’s on tap for the day: The House starts to debate a massive China bill, Biden picks an ambassador to Germany, and the complex legacy of Donald Rumsfeld

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China Bill Faces Partisan Roadblocks

It seemed to largely fly under the radar of the D.C. news cycle this week, but there is a massive China policy bill currently making its way through the House that underscores just how seriously Congress is taking the new Cold War 2.0 era with China. 

Yet even though everyone in Congress seems to be on board when it comes to China, there are major partisan roadblocks in getting to a unified strategy—particularly when it comes to climate change. 

The Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act, or EAGLE Act (because no congressional bill is complete without a word-salad title to make a cool acronym), is one of the most significant pieces of House legislation crafted on China. Spearheaded by congressional Democrats, it’s 470 pages long (and that’s even before all the added amendments), with potentially billions of dollars at stake, and includes sweeping proposals to boost U.S. competitiveness against China and push Beijing on human rights. 

What’s in the bill? The bill has provisions on economic diplomacy; responses to China’s crackdown on its ethnic Uyghur population, which the United States says constitutes a genocide; bolstering the U.S.-Taiwan defense relationship; tackling climate change; and everything in between. It’s also a major policy debut for Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks, nearly six months into his new job as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who crafted and championed the bill. 

There’s one big problem. Republicans aren’t on board. That’s a stark shift from the companion China bill in the Senate, which passed with broad bipartisan support. Getting tough on China seems to be one of the only things that both parties in Congress can agree on these days, so GOP opposition to the bill is significant—though it could still pass the committee on a party-line vote.

Republicans say most of the bill is all sizzle, no steak, and take issue with how the bill allocates billions of dollars toward tackling climate change through a multilateral U.N. climate fund.

“I believe it’s more of a messaging bill that is a Trojan horse for flawed green climate initiatives,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Wednesday, when the committee began its markup of the bill. 

At the time of writing, the committee was not done with the markup. A marathon committee session dragged on from early afternoon on Wednesday, past midnight, and into the early morning hours of Thursday, as dozens of amendments were added, debated, voted on, or batted down. 

Meeks said he wanted to make sure members on both sides debated the bill and had the opportunity to propose amendments and said bipartisan support was important. Republican members said the bill was crafted without adequate bipartisan input and from the outset was missing stronger language on key issues like Taiwan and export control. 

Snag over climate change. Neither side seems willing to budge on the climate change provisions in the bill, either. A Republican congressional aide told SitRep that GOP members on the committee opposed a provision in the bill directing billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, where the United States would have “little authority over how the money is spent.”

“We have to address climate change when we talk about China,” countered a Democratic aide. “Our Senate colleagues, our partners in Japan and elsewhere in east Asia, they want us to act on climate change.”

President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Amy Gutmann, current president of the University of Pennsylvania, to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel

Another alumni of the Obama administration’s foreign-policy team, Bathsheba Nell Crocker, was nominated to be Biden’s ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva. 

A top advisor to climate envoy John Kerry, Mark Gallogly, is leaving the administration, as Axios reports.

Former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has joined the Washington strategic advisory firm Pallas Advisors, according to a company statement provided to SitRep. 

Rachel Brandenburg, associate vice president at the Cohen Group, has joined the Center for a New American Security as an adjunct senior fellow.

What we’re watching at the top of the national security news cycle.

Rumsfeld. Donald Rumsfeld, the two-time U.S. defense secretary who was an architect of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, died at the age of 88, his family announced Wednesday.

Read our colleague Michael Hirsh’s obituary of the controversial statesman. Then read these two very different takes on Rumsfeld’s legacy: One in Foreign Policy from his colleague and former national security advisor John Bolton and one in the Atlantic from staff writer George Packer. 

Arms race. China is likely building more than a hundred missile silos for nuclear-tipped weapons in the middle of the desert, researchers have discovered.

On a site in Yumen, in the middle of China’s Gansu province near the Mongolian border, experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies have found nearly 120 structures they believe are likely to be storing China’s nuclear-armed DF-41 missile. That could have major ramifications for policy and arms control debates in Congress, as Biden is asking Capitol Hill for a major refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 

Writing on the wall? In April, the same month Biden announced a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, his State Department sent a report to Congress outlining a strategy for Afghanistan that was not optimistic about the state of the Afghan government amid an onslaught of Taliban attacks, as we reported.

Washington seems to be losing faith in the Afghan government’s survival about as fast as the Taliban are capturing provinces. “It seems to me there’s a growing sense in the Western conversation that Rome is falling,” Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told us. 

Never again. Pressure is mounting on the Biden administration to hold Myanmar’s military accountable for genocide against the Rohingya after a coup this year, current and former officials told the New York Times. But so far, Biden has stopped short of slapping on the designation, as the United States weighs how forcefully it should respond to the February coup.

There is also concern among some in the administration that such a move might turn other sections of Myanmar society against the United States. The fear is that others in the country would see a declaration from the United States as favoring the Rohingya over other persecuted groups.

Performers in military uniform take part in a show as part of the centennial celebration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on June 28.Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

The times, they are a changin’, and that, of course, means new think pieces on drone warfare. Read this War on the Rocks piece from a former drone pilot, Joe Ritter, arguing that armed drones need to start being tasked as combat aircraft rather than intelligence missions. 

Put On Your Radar

July 1: U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown speaks at the Atlantic Council on modern air warfare.

July 7: Rep. Mike Turner of the House Armed Services Committee speaks at the Hudson Institute on U.S. strategic forces and deterrence. 

July 7: Israeli President-elect Isaac Herzog is set to be sworn in. 

“Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air.”

—The U.S. National Security Agency, in a rare public statement, responding to claims from Carlson, a Fox News host, that the agency is spying on him

Down on the border. Republican governors appear to be using National Guard troops to try to continue former President Donald Trump’s deployments to the border. This week, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced that she would deploy 50 National Guard troops to the southern border, which reporters learned would be funded by a “private donation” from Republican mega-donor Willis Johnson.

And Trump joined several House Republicans and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who’s also deploying National Guardsmen to the border, for a speech and a visit to unfinished segments of the prior administration’s border wall in Pharr, Texas.

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