/  Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 3485, H.R. 4445 and H.R. 4521

Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 3485, H.R. 4445 and H.R. 4521

As delivered during today's hearing:

I have a formal statement, and I'm going to get to that in a minute. I'm going to be a little less complimentary on the China bill. I want to just say for the record that this is the most egregious violation of process I have ever seen in my time here. There's not been a single hearing on that bill. It's going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars. It's got some things I like in it. It's got some things I don't like in it, but the fact that it's coming before the Rules Committee without ever having a hearing, that it's been cobbled together in the Speaker's office.

Not only have Republicans been cut out of the process, frankly your own Chairman has been cut out of this process. We might as well disband as a body and turn over our jobs to the Speaker. So I don't think there will be a lot of support for this based on the manner in which it was done. And honestly, this is something that could have been and should have been bipartisan. The Speaker has chosen to make it partisan, and she's chosen to do it in the most disrespectful way to the institution she presides over. Again, we'll have a lot more to say about that in the course of what I suspect will be a very long hearing. Count me as a pretty firm "no" on that legislation.

Our hearing today covers three items. The first I’ll address is H.R. 3485, the Global Respect Act. This bill would allow the president to impose sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights abuses committed against LGBTQ individuals, including making such individuals ineligible for visas and admission to the United States.

I understand that Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee have concerns about this legislation, including Democrats’ failure to include religious freedom protections. The bill may also be duplicative of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which already provides procedures for imposing visa restrictions and other sanctions on human rights abusers regardless of their motivation for committing those abuses. In fact, it is my understanding that the State Department already uses this authority, appropriately in my view, against those who target LGBT individuals. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses today, whom I hope will shed light on these and other concerns.

Our second item is H.R. 4445, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021. This legislation makes pre-dispute arbitration agreements unenforceable when the case is related in some way to an allegation of sexual harassment or assault.

I stand with victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. I think we all do. They deserve justice, and the right to tell their story – or not – however they wish. Unfortunately, this legislation is written in such a fashion as to raise very real policy concerns, and in a way that makes this legislation nothing more than a handout to trial lawyers. I hoped these concerns would have been addressed in the committee process. Unfortunately no Republican amendments were agreed to, even those offered by Members who supported the legislation and were seeking to improve it in a targeted and meaningful way. It is unfortunate that we cannot spend a bit more time working on this legislation because I do believe there are changes that, if made, would improve the bill and garner more bipartisan support. 

Additionally, I would note that this legislation only addresses arbitration, not confidentiality agreements. Under current law, arbitration is already only enforceable when it’s entered into voluntarily. Agreeing to pre-dispute arbitration in contract negotiations in no way prevents victims from seeking justice from law enforcement and publicly telling their story. I know my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have meaningful perspectives on this legislation, and I look forward to their testimony. 

Lastly, our third item is H.R. 4521, which has come to us as the America COMPETES Act of 2022. This bill is purportedly the companion bill to the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which passed the Senate in June.

Unfortunately, today’s legislation is a real missed opportunity, both for the House of Representatives and the nation. Communist China continues to pose significant challenges on the international stage. These challenges include, but are not limited to, China’s ongoing genocide against its Uyghur Muslim minority; China’s threat to Taiwan, its democratic neighbor; China’s ongoing adventurism in the South China Sea; China’s unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation and the use of subsidies to undercut American businesses; and China’s relentless quest for natural resources worldwide. These and other practices present clear challenges to the United States and the global community. As such, Democrats and Republicans and the Senate should have spoken together with one voice on a bipartisan bill with real teeth that repositions the United States to confront China’s lust for hegemony.

But instead of doing so, Democratic leadership has once again decided to put forward a partisan bill, drafted behind closed doors in the Speaker’s office. While portions of the package may have been marked up in the committees of jurisdiction in other forms, the entire package has not received a markup before it came to us today. Democratic leadership has also failed to even ask for any Republican input before putting it together.  

It's simply unacceptable. And it's an opportunity where we could have worked together, where frankly, there are common interests. But the manner in which the Majority has chosen to proceed on this almost ensures total Republican opposition and frankly, if your own members, who were shut out of this process, were allowed to vote their convictions, I think many of them have serious concerns about the bill and the process by which it was put together. 

What is most disturbing is that the package before us consists of toothless policies that will do nothing to stem China’s global lust for power. No new policy provisions to combat Chinese military ventures, and no new economic policies to reposition America to better compete. Instead, we get a laundry list of requests for a "strategy" and requirements to file "reports," none of which will actually address the real problem.

It is easy to see what Democratic leadership is up to. Knowing what could be coming in November – an electoral defeat caused entirely by the ongoing extreme partisanship of Democrats in Congress and in the White House – the Majority is using today’s bill as its last-ditch effort to attach controversial progressive policies that could not pass Congress on their own to critical legislation, all in the guise of addressing the challenges posed by Communist China. It is disappointing that this is so, and disappointing that the House will miss an important opportunity to take a real, bipartisan stand on this threat to the global order posed by China. 

This is a real problem, Mr. Chairman, that calls for real solutions that both parties can work on and support together. Unfortunately, those real solutions are not in front of us today. I hope the House will consider a different path because at the end of the day, we can come together on a lot of items that I think would make a real difference. But doing this at the last minute, with no committee hearings, with no minority input is simply the wrong way to do it if the aim is to actually come together to confront a global menace, one that we all think is a danger to not only the future of our country but also a danger to the international order. The Senate managed to do that. It's too bad the House didn't.

And again, I regret this missed opportunity. And I regret this hastily assembled legislation, which again spends hundreds of billions of dollars, goes outside the normal budget order, has not gone through any remotely normal committee process, is now presented to us as a multi-hundred-page bill and without the proper procedures. If we're going to proceed this way, we are going to end up divided on a topic where we can and should be united, where we could speak with one voice. But the manner in which you've chosen to advance this legislation ensures that will not happen. And I regret that quite sincerely. 

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Created: February 1, 2022