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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

House committee on China starts two-year drive to ‘decouple’

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

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The big idea

House committee on China starts two-year drive to ‘decouple’

Rep. Mike Gallagher said he doesn’t blame past leaders for betting that inviting China into the global economy would induce Beijing to follow rules set by liberal industrial powers, notably the United States, and become a good global citizen, perhaps even embrace political reforms.

But it’s time to cut our losses.

“Everyone made the same basic bet on China,” Gallagher told The Daily 202 in a phone interview on Sunday. “That bet made sense. It was logical. But it failed. So now we’re trying to extricate ourselves.”

The Wisconsin Republican, a former Marine counterintelligence officer, chairs the weeks-old House committee on China. The panel holds its first hearing Tuesday, kicking off what he says will be a two-year effort to map a way for America to “selectively decouple” the two economies.

The committee will take a big-picture look at Beijing’s military rise, its threats to take over the democratically self-governed island of Taiwan by force, and its overt and covert efforts to influence public opinion by silencing critics and spreading propaganda.

The first hearing lineup

Gallagher will set the tone with the first hearing, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The unusual evening schedule could widen the audience: Most congressional hearings occur during the day, when working Americans have a harder time tuning in.

The witnesses will be:

  • Matthew Pottinger, a longtime China hawk who served as the top Asia policy official on former president Donald Trump’s National Security Council.
  • H.R. McMaster, a retired U.S. Army Lt. General who served Trump as national security adviser.
  • Tong Yi, a Chinese human rights advocate and former secretary to one of China’s most prominent dissidents, Wei Jingsheng. Gallagher said Tong was “about as credible as any human being” on the topic of China’s domestic repression of critics.
  • Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Gallagher said Paul, added to the list by Democrats, would detail the economic damage to the United States from Chinese competition.

“Our hope is to come away from this with a better sense of why the CCP is a threat and why someone in Northeast Wisconsin or other parts of the country should care about that threat,” Gallagher said, using the abbreviation for the Chinese Communist Party.

With 2024 looming, can this stay bipartisan?

As The Daily 202 chronicled back in December, Gallagher may have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stitch Republicans and Democrats together on sweeping policy responses to the challenge of China. That doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements, even profound ones.

“We’re not going to agree on 100% of everything,” he said Sunday. “There may be times when I want to go further and more aggressively than the Democrats want to go, and vice versa. But we’re going to try to preserve the bipartisan center of gravity.”

Gallagher said “there’s a lot of disagreement about how exactly” America limits its economic relationship with China, but pointed to “a recognition in both parties” that this must happen.

“I think we can come up with a coherent framework for selective decoupling that has the buy-in of 70% of Congress,” he said.

A ‘tense dialogue' with corporate America

The committee will also look at the troubled and sometimes troubling relationship between corporate America and China, especially instances in which big firms, Hollywood, or the NBA have sometimes bent over backward to accommodate Beijing.

Gallagher said his panel “is going to be calling certain businesses, certain industries, to either testify before, or talk to behind closed doors, the committee, and explain what the trade-offs are to doing business” in China. It could be “a tense dialogue at times.”

“I understand why major American companies have a massive presence in China — same reason John Dillinger robbed banks: That’s where the money is,” Gallagher said. “And I get that the ship of state is an aircraft carrier, it doesn’t turn on a dime, so we’re not going to selectively decouple overnight, and I’m not calling for a complete decoupling.”

But American taxpayer dollars cannot be “unwittingly funding Communist genocide or PLA [People’s Liberation Army] modernization.”

Is Biden a partner? Or someone to pressure?

“It depends on the issue,” according to Gallagher, who said he sees an administration “divided” along several lines. The National Security Council and the Pentagon seem more inclined to confront China, he said, while officials whose top priority is fighting climate change believe in “a more cooperative relationship with China.”

But there’s room to work together on issues like high tech, clearing a backlog of U.S. weapons shipments to Taiwan, trade, and taxation, he said. And perhaps the committee can help “empower” more hawkish officials inside the executive branch.

“The American system is premised on the idea you can have competing views,” Gallagher said. “We’ll preserve room for honest disagreement and debate. It doesn’t need to be holding hands and singing Kumbaya all the time.”


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What’s happening now

Biden to huddle with House, Senate Democrats amid busy week in Washington

Today, President Biden returned to Washington from Delaware with plans this week to promote his health-care agenda and huddle with House and Senate Democrats. Biden is slated to speak at a House Democratic conference on Wednesday and a Senate Democratic luncheon on Thursday as some major issues loom, including a showdown with Republicans over raising the debt limit,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

Fox News media analyst says network won’t let him cover Dominion lawsuit

“Fox News host Howard Kurtz, who anchors a weekly show on the media industry, said he has been told not to cover the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems,” Jeremy Barr and Kyle Melnick report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

San Francisco debates reparations for Blacks: Is $5 million each enough?

Tasked with calculating how much San Francisco should pay its Black residents for decades of discrimination, a government-appointed panel didn’t develop a mathematic formula. Instead, over the last year and a half, its 15 members have been studying the city’s history,” Emmanuel Felton reports.

  • “In the 1960s, city leaders demolished part of the Fillmore District, a neighborhood once known as the Harlem of the West, displacing 883 businesses and 20,000 people, most of them Black. Decades later, thousands of people remain displaced and the neighborhood has turned into a predominantly White enclave of multimillion dollar homes.”

“To compensate for that and other instances of racial discrimination, the city’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee recently recommended that qualifying Black residents receive $5 million each in reparations.”

Doctors who touted ivermectin as covid fix now pushing it for flu, RSV

“First, the group of doctors championed ivermectin as a covid panacea. It failed to live up to the hype. Now, they’re promoting the anti-parasitic to prevent and treat the flu and RSV,Lauren Weber reports.

“The Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, formed in 2020 to ‘prevent and treat covid,’ is touting ivermectin for common respiratory infections amid a dramatic drop in prescriptions for the drug as clinical trials undermined claims of its efficacy against covid. There is no clinical data in humans to support using ivermectin for flu or RSV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical experts.”

… and beyond

New York’s gun laws sow confusion as nation rethinks regulation

Matthew Seifer, a Long Island firearms safety instructor, is licensed by New York State to teach his students where they can legally carry their guns. It’s harder than it sounds,” the New York Times’s Jonah E. Bromwich reports.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned century-old New York regulations, ruling that citizens had a broad right to carry concealed weapons. The State Legislature, anticipating more gun-toting, then made certain areas off-limits to firearms, but that new law has already been challenged in court at least 10 times. On March 20, an appeals panel will consider several of the cases at once, extending a dizzying sequence in which judges have tossed out rules, only for higher courts to reinstate them again and again.”

“Mr. Seifer has been compelled to change his curriculum each time — and some of those whom he has taught have brought guns to locations where they are barred, accidentally violating a law that refuses to stay in one place.”

Lab leak most likely origin of covid-19 pandemic, Energy Department now says

The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress,” the Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel report.

The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.”

The latest on covid

First combination home test for flu and covid cleared by the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the first combination test for the flu and the coronavirus that is fully performed at home, giving consumers a convenient way to determine which pathogen may be causing their respiratory illnesses,” Laurie McGinley reports.

The Biden agenda

Biden’s student loan forgiveness program comes before Supreme Court

President Biden’s far-reaching initiative to forgive student loan debt will be debated this week before a Supreme Court that is skeptical of the administration’s bold claims of power — a nearly half-trillion-dollar showdown that could affect more than 40 million Americans,” Robert Barnes and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report.

  • Tuesday’s oral arguments bring together a string of combustible issues: an ambitious program aimed at fulfilling a campaign promise for Biden’s political base; heightened suspicion by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority about the ability of federal agencies to act without specific congressional authorization; and the power of Republican-led states to use the judiciary to stop a president’s priorities before they even take effect.”

More: What to know as student loan forgiveness plan goes to Supreme Court

Biden finds breaking up Big Tech is hard to do

Google has been quietly assembling a phalanx of former Justice Department lawyers as the tech titan gears up for the regulatory fight of its life against the attorneys’ former employer,” Will Oremus, Cat Zakrzewski and Naomi Nix report.

“The Department of Justice offensive, a pair of lawsuits aimed at breaking up the search giant’s dominance, will play out in the courts — reflecting a new phase in the Biden administration’s years-long effort to rein in Big Tech, after a sweeping antitrust package stalled in Congress.”

2024 presidential candidates, visualized

Three Republicans have officially declared they are running for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination: former president Donald Trump, entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley, who was governor of South Carolina before serving as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations. Plenty of others are making moves toward getting in the race, as Trump struggles to consolidate the support he once enjoyed in the GOP,” Hannah Knowles, Amy B Wang, Kati Perry and Szu Yu Chen report.

Hot on the left

The junk fees Biden hasn’t talked about

It’s true that junk fees are routinely targeted down the income ladder, and that some of the fees the administration has chosen not to highlight thus far — particularly with respect to rental housing and incarceration — are attached to vital necessities and vulnerable populations. Legal aid groups and advocates are pushing for the White House to adopt these more pernicious junk fees as part of a broader agenda,” David Dayen writes for the American Prospect.

Hot on the right

Emboldened by its majority, House GOP turns up heat on federal workers

“At a House hearing this month on fraud and waste in pandemic aid, some Republicans zeroed in on one group in particular for criticism: the federal employees overseeing the money,” Lisa Rein and Jacqueline Alemany report.

  • “Fire people if they don’t do things they’re supposed to do,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said. “That is our biggest problem in the federal government. Nobody can be held accountable.”

That sentiment is animating a newly empowered GOP House majority eager to ramp up scrutiny of the army of civil servants who run the government’s day-to-day operations. The effort includes seeking testimony from middle- and lower-level workers who are part of what Republicans have long derided as the ‘deep state,’ while some lawmakers are drafting bills that have little chance of passing the Democrat-led Senate but give Republicans a chance to argue for reining in the federal bureaucracy of 2.1 million employees.”

Today in Washington

At 5 p.m., Biden and Vice President Harris will speak at a Black History Month celebration.

In closing


Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.