GOP senators introduce bill permitting Trump to sanction China over failure to cooperate on COVID-19

GOP senators introduce bill permitting Trump to sanction China over failure to cooperate on COVID-19
© Greg Nash

Republican senators introduced a bill Tuesday allowing President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE to sanction China over its refusal to cooperate on investigations into the origins of the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE (R-S.C.), would authorize Trump to implement sanctions against China if the country does not cooperate with investigations led by the U.S., its allies or United Nations affiliates. 

GOP Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition MORE (N.C.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Mike BraunMichael BraunThe Memo: Supreme Court, Sinema deliver twin blows to Biden How a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE (Ind.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerUS budget deficit narrows sharply US lawmakers weigh new COVID-19 stimulus funding for businesses Citizenship before partisanship: Is Manchin the ideal candidate for 2024? MORE (Miss.) co-sponsored the bill.

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“The Chinese Communist Party’s continued suppression of the truth amid the coronavirus outbreak cannot go unchecked,” Wicker said in a statement. “This legislation would authorize the President to take appropriate actions against the Chinese government to ensure similar outbreaks do not happen in the future.”

Under the bill, the president would have to provide certification to Congress within 60 days that the Chinese government provided a complete accounting to any investigation, closed all wet markets and released all pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, who were arrested after the pandemic began.

Without the certification, Trump is permitted to choose at least two sanctions from a list that includes an asset freeze on specific Chinese officials, travel ban and visa revocation for specific Chinese citizens and a ban on providing student visas to Chinese nationals. 

Other sanctions on the list include a ban on U.S. financial institutions giving loans or underwriting Chinese controlled or directed entities unless it’s associated with limiting human suffering and to any loan from a international financial institution that would help a Chinese controlled or directed entity.

The legislation would also prevent entities with Chinese majority joint ownership or control from listing securities on a national securities exchange. 

The sanctions will remain in effect until Trump gives certification that China has cooperated with investigations into the coronavirus and that the country’s wet markets have closed.

The legislation would also mandate the Food and Drug Administration to inform Congress whether the pharmaceutical industry in China is regulated for safety to the same degree as in the U.S. It would also expand research and development tax credits to incentivize goods to be manufactured in the U.S. 

The Trump administration and its allies have pointed the finger at China for the extent of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the country was not transparent quickly enough about the virus’s infection capabilities. 

The coronavirus has infected more than 4.2 million people worldwide, killing at least 289,349, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.