While the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party was not formed with broad legislative jurisdiction or a clear mandate on what to produce at the end of the 118th Congress, the committee is well-positioned to drive the conversation around China and help Congress prioritize their focus – giving the Committee enormous power around the biggest set of policy issues Congress and the Administration may face. The Committee will officially launch their work tonight in a prime-time hearing. Here are some key factors that will contribute to the Select Committee’s potential impact on Congress:
The Committee’s Power is Driven by Bipartisanship: The Committee was approved by the House by a vote of 365 to 65, displaying an unprecedented show of bipartisan support in one of the most hyper-partisan environments in history. Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) have each expressed a strong commitment to work together and highlighted the need for both sides of the political aisle to remain united. As many committees will be complicated by a web of partisan fights and viral moments, this Committee has the ability (and power) to bridge the partisan divide, bring credibility to their proposed solutions, and drive the discussion on China going forward.
National Security is the Focus of the Public Debate, But the Select Committee Focus is Broader: The work of the Committee may prioritize national security concerns related to China, but the committee is likely to reach into other policy sectors as well. Members of Congress are increasingly focused on issues like trade (i.e. the Section 301 tariffs), human rights (i.e. Xinjiang Province), China’s international alliances (i.e. Russia), theft of intellectual property, land purchases in the U.S., currency manipulation, threats against Taiwan, and their response to the pandemic – just to name a few. The Committee is not short on issues Congress has an interest in, and they are likely to tackle as many as possible.
China is a Priority Across Congress, Which Benefits the Select Committee: Issues related to China span a breadth of policy issues, and many committees will be focused on all aspects of the U.S. relationship with China. This does not weaken the position of the Select Committee – it strengthens it. This interest across Congress will help to position the Select Committee as critical to driving the broader discussion and allows them to lead on issues, without threatening any legislative jurisdictions, that many committees see as impactful and necessary.
China Issues are Emerging in Real Time for the Select Committee to Pursue: The policy landscape around China is not an ethereal concept, as issues seem to be emerging every day that the Select Committee could (and probably should) focus on, ranging from high-altitude balloons to evolving relationships with Russia (especially as related to Ukraine). The Select Committee will face a significant challenge in navigating what issues – especially among legacy issues – to pursue given all that is happening in real time.