Senate looks to update and deepen U.S.-Taiwan relationship

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Senate looks to update and deepen U.S.-Taiwan relationship

Eclipsed by the will-she-won’t-she of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible trip to Taiwan is a will-they-can-they of lawmakers taking up bipartisan legislation this week to expand U.S. diplomatic and military ties with the self-governed island over angry objections from Beijing.

While Chinese threats in response to the California Democrat’s as-yet unconfirmed plans to visit (The Daily 202 thinks she’s going) have seized headlines around the world, what happens in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday will echo in Taipei and Beijing.

It could also give the White House significant diplomatic heartburn. The administration has been trying to ease tensions with the mainland, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, to be taken by force if necessary — notably if Taipei moves to formally declare independence.

The United States does not have an embassy in Taiwan, but sells arms to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense and nurtures a strong trade relationship. On three occasions since August 2021, President Biden has said the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if China were to attack. White House officials have walked back or watered down those comments.

After Biden spoke for 2 ½ hours on Friday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, state-run media in Beijing summarized the conversation in a way that made it sound like Xi had scolded the United States on the subject of Taiwan, at one point warning Washington not to “play with fire.”

That’s the backdrop for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup of the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, crafted by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the panel’s chairman, and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

The legislation also has the support of the ranking Republican on foreign relations, Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, who is expected to push to include some proposals he made in late 2021. Support for Taiwan and defiance of China is one of the few heartily bipartisan issues in Congress today.

The bill includes $6.5 billion in foreign military financing for Taiwan over the next four years. That State Department-administered program could provide Taiwan with loans or grants to purchase arms or conduct training or military exercises.

The Taiwan Policy Act would also designate Taiwan a “major non-NATO ally,” which facilitates deliveries of U.S. military hardware, but doesn’t come with a mutual defense commitment. Aides of both parties say that could help resolve the considerable backlog of deliveries to Taiwan.

Many of the bill’s provisions straddle the line between symbolic and substantive, but virtually all are bound to raise hackles in Beijing.

For instance, there’s the matter of raising the profile of each side’s representative. Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, would go from being called the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to the “Taiwan Representative Office.”

And the director of the American Institute in Taipei would require Senate confirmation, as is the case for ambassadors, and receive the title “representative.”

  • Edit the Taiwan Relations Act, one of the core texts defining the relationship since 1979, so that U.S. policy isn’t just “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character” but also “arms conducive to deterring acts of aggression by the People’s Liberation Army;”
  • Require the president to impose sanctions on senior Chinese officials — including its president — if they escalate tensions with the effect of “undermining, overthrowing, or dismantling governing institutions in Taiwan,” including by invading; and
  • Direct the administration to “prioritize and expedite” Taiwan requests to buy military materiel.

“As Beijing continues to seek to coerce and isolate Taiwan there should be no doubt or ambiguity about the depth and strength of our determination to stand with the people of Taiwan and their democracy,” Menendez said in a statement when the bill was introduced.

How long will the administration stay silent

The measure does have a diplomatic fig-leaf of sorts. “Nothing in this Act may be construed — (1) to restore diplomatic relations with the Republic of China; or (2) to alter the United States Government’s position with respect to the international status of the Republic of China.”

Even if the committee sends the bill to the full Senate, the road to Biden’s desk is long and also runs through the House of Representatives. And actual dollars must come through the appropriations process.

The White House did not acknowledge an email from The Daily 202 asking for the administration’s position on the Taiwan Policy Act.

But after a wave of leaks with the intent or effect of making it harder for Pelosi to travel to Taiwan and the intent or effect of putting distance between Biden and that trip, the administration is unlikely to stay silent very long.

Taiwan media speculate Pelosi may visit as soon as Tuesday

“Several media outlets in Taiwan reported that [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] may meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, without saying where they got the information. Multiple hotels in downtown Taipei had been booked for her delegation, private broadcaster TVBS reported, with one of its reporters saying on Twitter that Pelosi will arrive Tuesday,” Bloomberg News reports.

Senate Democrats seeking a big win by week’s end

Today, Senate Democrats return to Washington with the hope of passing a major economic package by week’s end that aims to lower health-care costs, combat climate change, reduce the deficit and revise the U.S. tax code. Much could still go awry,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

  • “Also looming in the chamber’s last scheduled week of work before September: another attempt to pass legislation blocked last week by Republicans to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and a possible vote on legislation protecting same-sex marriages.”

First ship carrying grain leaves Odessa in deal to ease global food crisis

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Veterans call rejection of toxic-exposure bill ‘a slap in the face’

“[James Powers] was among the veterans, military family members and advocates staged on the Capitol steps for the fourth night on Sunday, pledging to remain until Congress passes a bill that covers health care for those exposed to toxins while serving in uniform … GOP lawmakers blocked the aid from passing last week in what comedian Jon Stewart, a longtime veterans advocate, blasted as ‘a disgrace,’” María Luisa Paúl reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Major legal fights loom over abortion pills, travel out of state

Can states ban mail-order medication used to terminate pregnancies or bar their residents from traveling elsewhere to do so?

“The overturning of Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years is expected to trigger a new set of legal challenges for which there is little precedent, observers say, further roiling the nation’s bitter political landscape and compounding chaos as Republican-led states move quickly to curtail access to reproductive care. It is possible, if not probable, that one or both of these questions will eventually work its way back to the high court,” Ann E. Marimow, Laurie McGinley and Caroline Kitchener report.

WaPo exclusive: Thousands of lives depend on a transplant network in need of ‘vast restructuring’

“The system for getting donated kidneys, livers and hearts to desperately ill patients relies on out-of-date technology that has crashed for hours at a time and has never been audited by federal officials for security weaknesses or other serious flaws, according to a confidential government review obtained by The Washington Post,” Joseph Menn and Lenny Bernstein report.

The mechanics of the entire transplant system must be overhauled, the review concluded, citing aged software, periodic system failures, mistakes in programming and over-reliance on manual input of data.”

Trump’s lawyers are preparing legal defenses against criminal charges

“Members of the ex-president’s legal team have already begun brainstorming strategy and potential defenses, according to three people familiar with the matter and written communications reviewed by Rolling Stone. Trump himself has been briefed on potential legal defenses on at least two occasions this summer, two of the sources say,” Rolling Stone‘s Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley report.

The prosecution of Russian war crimes in Ukraine

Never before have investigations and trials begun within weeks of the crimes, as they have in Ukraine. A unique set of circumstances has made this possible: Ukraine has an intact judicial system; investigators have had nearly immediate access to crime scenes and evidence, including copious amounts of video footage; and Ukraine is holding several hundred Russian prisoners of war, some of whom are or will be suspects in war-crime investigations,” Masha Gessen writes for the New Yorker.

“The first trial took place in Kyiv in May. Vadim Shishimarin, a twenty-one-year-old Russian sergeant, stood accused of violating the rules and customs of war by killing a civilian in the Sumy region.”

When you have covid, here’s how you know you are no longer contagious

“Even though a person is less likely to transmit the virus later in the course of illness, it’s still possible. Research shows that people continue to shed virus that can be cultured in a laboratory — a good test of the potential to pass along the virus — for about eight days on average after testing positive,” Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach report.

“Experts say it is very unlikely to pass along the virus after 10 days even if a person still is testing positive.”

A policy win, an economic hit: Turbulent week reflects Biden’s challenge

“Now the question becomes whether his run of legislative wins — particularly if Democrats manage to pass their health-care, climate and clean energy bill, which contains a hugely popular measure to let Medicare negotiate the prices of some drugs — will be enough for Biden to help overcome the stubbornly high inflation that has helped sink his approval ratings,” Yasmeen Abutaleb reports.

Biden tests positive again for coronavirus after Paxlovid ‘rebound’

ICYMI’s here’s Biden’s testing timeline: “The president’s physician, Kevin O’Connor, said Biden tested negative on Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning and Friday morning. He tested positive Saturday morning using an antigen test,” Yasmeen Abutaleb also reports.

As Harris touts abortion rights, backers hope she finally hits her stride

“The political challenge for Harris, however, is that she is hardly the only ambitious Democrat to seize on the abortion issue. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for example, has attracted attention and loyalty among activists for a pitched battle with her state’s GOP-led legislature over abortion access,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports.

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“Federal officials this week touted the arrival of hundreds of thousands of additional monkeypox vaccine doses, heralding it as a milestone in the nation’s fight against the outbreak. What they left out: The United States is entering a critical three-month period where cases may continue to multiply, but no more vaccines are scheduled to arrive until October at the earliest,” Dan Diamond reports.

The Inflation Reduction Act, visualized

“If enacted, the legislation released Wednesday night in a surprise agreement between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would represent one of the most consequential pieces of economic policy in recent U.S. history — though still far smaller than the $3 trillion the Biden administration initially sought,” Jeff Stein, Maxine Joselow and Rachel Roubein report.

In races for governor, Democrats see a silver lining

“Republican missteps, weak candidates and fund-raising woes are handing Democrats unexpected opportunities in races for governor this year, including in two states with departing Republican chief executives and in a number led by Democrats where G.O.P. contenders now face far longer odds than they had hoped,” the New York Times‘s Jonathan Martin reports.

The Murdochs and Trump aligned for mutual benefit. That may be changing.

“Murdoch’s support for Trump has been crucial to his political career and at times to his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss. But as Trump inches closer to a third presidential run under the glare of criminal, civil and governmental investigations, multiple associates of Murdoch told The Washington Post that it appears he has lost his enthusiasm for Trump,” Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr report.

“But Murdoch, who controls a vast swath of the political media world, has spent decades learning to ride the waves of U.S. politics and hedge his bets on candidates. Fox has tried to pull away from the 45th president before, only to return in the face of Trump’s fury.”

The president does not have any public events scheduled this afternoon.

How Beyoncé honors Black queer culture in ‘Renaissance’

“Ahead of the release of Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, the singer dedicated ‘Renaissance’ to her children and husband, her late gay Uncle Jonny and LGBTQ change-makers who have shaped Black popular culture,” Samantha Chery reports.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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