The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is hitting a new snag in the Senate. This time over an amendment from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would block products made with the forced labor of Uyghurs in China from entering the United States.
It’s a common-sense provision that would protect American consumers from unknowingly taking part in Communist China’s human rights abuses. So, what’s the hold up?
Rubio explained the issue on the Senate floor yesterday:
In China in the Xinjiang Province, Uyghur Muslims are taken form their homes, from their families, they are forced to work in these factories as slaves. Forced to renounce their religion and change their names. Forced sterilizations, forced abortions. It’s been characterized—rightfully so—as genocide. So, I filed a bill—bipartisan support—and this bill says that any product that’s made in a factory in that part of China has a presumption that it’s made by slaves, and it passed the Senate unanimously; it’s sitting over in the House.
So, I’m trying to get it here as an amendment on this bill and here’s what happens: The House, they have this thing where they come forward and say, “under the Constitution, if it generates any revenue, it has to start in the House.” The problem I have with that is that they interpret it very differently than how the Supreme Court has interpreted that clause in the Constitution, very broadly, in fact, so broadly that they can basically use it on virtually anything. They can just apply it to anything they don’t like.
The argument from Democrats that the Senate cannot add this amendment because of revenue concerns is overblown. The Congressional Budget Office has stated that the language of this amendment would have “insignificant effects on direct spending and revenues.” A Rubio spokesperson said, “Democrats are creating fake procedural excuses to avoid a vote on slave labor.”
In July, the Senate unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which Rubio is now trying to include in the NDAA. And in the last Congress, the House passed a similar version of the bill by a vote of 406-3. Given its broad bipartisan support, this amendment shouldn’t be a source of contention. Yet, Senate Democrats tried to strike an amendment deal which would have ultimately excluded Rubio’s amendment against Uyghur forced labor. In response, Rubio blocked the deal.
Enraged, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Rubio’s efforts, “sad, tragic, and almost absurd.” But standing up against forced labor isn’t sad, tragic, or absurd at all. It’s the right thing to do. However, the fact that Democrats would rather have the NDAA held up again rather than include an amendment that would protect American consumers and vulnerable Uyghurs alike fit this description perfectly.
The White House has been pressuring Congress for months against bills that would promote human rights in China so that the administration can get Chinese leaders to cooperate on climate issues. This is shameful. The United States government shouldn’t be undermining its tradition of human rights advocacy, especially for fake climate promises from an authoritarian government that has no problem breaking its word. Congressional leaders should reaffirm its support for human rights in China despite the administration’s cowardice.
Today, December 2, happens to be the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. It’s an important reminder that not all people are free, and modern slavery in the form of forced labor, forced marriage, and human trafficking keeps many people in bondage. At the very least, we ought to make sure that we are not participating in forced labor ourselves through the products we import. Rubio’s amendment does exactly that. No petty excuse from Schumer or the Biden administration will ever justify Democrat’s opposition to it.