Amid rising U.S. tensions with China over Taiwan’s independence, the Senate Foreign Relations committee has advanced bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. policy toward the self-governing island.
We’ll share more on what the bill does and what the Biden administration thinks of the move, plus the GOP push to get the annual defense authorization bill to the floor for a vote before the end of September and the latest on the Army Chinook helicopters taken out of service.
The Senate Foreign Relations committee on Wednesday advanced bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. policy toward Taiwan.
The panel advanced the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 by a vote of 17-5, coming amid rising U.S. tensions with China over Taiwan’s independence and despite unspecified concerns about the legislation from the White House.
Making it clear: Following the vote, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters that the bill “makes it very clear of our support for Taiwan in many different dimensions and defense and the international realm and economic engagement.”
“It is incredibly supportive of Taiwan at a time that Taiwan needs that support to be clear as it deals with the aggression that China has shown in a way that it’s never shown before in the 43 or so years of the Taiwan Relations Act,” he continued.
Who voted against it?: Four Democrats and one Republican voted against the bill: Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rand Paul (R- Ky).
What it would do: The bill would set aside $4.5 billion in security assistance to Taiwan over four years as well as designate Taiwan a major non-NATO ally, which would benefit the island in terms of defense, trade and security cooperation.
The measure would also support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and multilateral trade architecture.
Rising frustrations: The bill signals rising frustration from Congress over Washington’s current policy on Taipei.
The Biden administration has indicated that it had some concerns about the bill but has largely been silent on what those concerns were. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the administration was working with members of Congress on the bill.
A symbolic move: Menendez said the panel adopted changes to the bill that largely affect its “symbolic” areas but not the “substantive” ones.
Also from The Hill:
Two dozen Republicans are pressing Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to bring the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to the floor for a vote before the September work period closes.
“At the founding of our nation, then-General George Washington penned, ‘When the civil and military powers cooperate, and afford mutual aid to each other there can be little doubt of things going well.’ Two centuries later, that still rings true,” the lawmakers, led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), wrote in a letter to Schumer.
“Yet should this body fail in its top Constitutional responsibility of providing for a common defense, our armed services will be left directionless, lack stable funding, and be devoid of civilian Congressional oversight,” they continued.
Where the bill stands: The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced its version of the annual defense policy bill in June by a bipartisan 23-3 vote, and the legislation now awaits consideration from the full upper chamber.
The House passed its version of the bill on July 14 on a bipartisan 329-101 vote. Once the Senate passes its version, differences between the bills are negotiated in conference committee.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at the 2022 Defense News Conference that he’s been working with Schumer to try to bring the bill to the floor before the Senate recesses for midterm elections.
Taking priority: However, he acknowledged that there were other things the upper chamber has to work on that take priority.
“We have to have a continuing resolution to keep the government operating, and there are other issues that are coming before us that we have to take up. But we’re pushing very, very hard to get on the floor in September,” Reed said.
The U.S. Army has returned nearly 6 in 10 of its Chinook helicopters to service as of Tuesday after grounding the fleet late last month due to fuel leaks.
Army spokesman Jason Waggoner said the Army now has 59.5 percent of the fleet available to support missions and training.
Earlier: The Army grounded the fleet in August after fuel leaks caused a “small number” of engine fires among the helicopters, saying the military would take corrective steps to resume normal flight operations.
At issue: At the time, the Army said the problem affected an “isolated number” of the aircrafts, which reportedly total about 400, so some might not have needed any fix.
“While no deaths or injuries occurred, the Army temporarily grounded the H-47 fleet out of an abundance of caution,” an Army spokesperson said last month.
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