Blue Dogs call for bipartisan investigation into China's handling of coronavirus

Blue Dogs call for bipartisan investigation into China's handling of coronavirus
© Greg Nash

Members of the centrist Democrat Blue Dog Coalition are calling for the establishment of a bipartisan task force to investigate China’s initial response to the coronavirus outbreak, raising concerns the country spread disinformation during the initial stages of the pandemic.

The call comes as China has faced global scrutiny over how it handled the beginning stages of the pandemic, which is widely believed to have originated in Wuhan. The Trump administration has been especially vocal about its criticisms as relations between the two countries have worsened.

House Republicans recently launched a China task force charged with conducting probes into a host of issues that have sparked tensions with the U.S., including the country’s handling of the pandemic — an initiative that was initially intended to be bipartisan.

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Democrats ultimately opted out of participating in the panel, but the GOP decided to move forward with the committee. 

In a letter sent to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBattle over reopening schools heats up Pelosi: Trump wearing a mask is 'an admission' that it can stop spread of coronavirus Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Md.), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (R-Calif.), and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (R-La.) on Wednesday, the group of moderate Democrats noted the complicated relationship between the United States and China, arguing that a united front between parties better positions them in terms of strengthening the country’s hand with U.S.-China relations. 

“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,” they wrote. 

“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.” 

The Blue Dog members said that while they have “respect for the Chinese people” and admire the culture, they 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” that have intensified due to China’s handling of the spread of the deadly virus. 

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“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,” they wrote.

“We cannot let the Chinese government’s campaign of dishonesty and disinformation continue without consequence, especially when it is placing American lives in danger.”

The group made three requests of leadership, the first being the creation of an independent commission similar to the 9/11 commission, which would be tasked with assessing the U.S.’s preparedness ahead of the pandemic and its response in an effort to be better prepared for future crises.  

“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,” they wrote. 

The lawmakers also called for a federal inquiry into how the Chinese government could potentially seek to exploit the pandemic to advance its foreign policy objectives. 

The group also stated that they “regret the decision to establish” a GOP task force, arguing they believe it politicizes a nonpartisan issue and only having one party at the table “undermines its effectiveness” and “sends the wrong message to government authorities in Beijing.”

“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,” they wrote.  

“If such an effort were to be adopted by House leadership, we know many Blue Dogs would welcome it and be eager to participate.”