The already tattered US-China relationship appears to be taking a hit as a growing chorus of GOP senators begins calling for and taking action against the communist nation over its involvement in the coronavirus pandemic.
Just days after Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced a wide-ranging investigation into the origins of the virus and the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of it, a myriad of Senate Republicans began calling for the US to respond more aggressively to China.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News Wednesday that Communist Chinese leadership “must be made to pay the price” if it is confirmed that the virus had originated in a laboratory in the Wuhan province.
“[That claim about the virus’ origin], if it bears out, shows that the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for every single death, every job lost, every retirement nest egg lost from this coronavirus, and Xi Jinping and his Chinese Communist apparatchiks must be made to pay the price. If that turns out to be true,” Cotton told the network.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) said in a separate Fox News appearance Wednesday that China’s dishonesty surrounding the virus turned them into “a threat to national security and global health.”
“China has long been the most significant geopolitical threat the United States faces, and we’ve always viewed it as a human rights offense when they censor and silence free speech,” he said.
“We’ve now seen that it’s not just a human rights threat, but it is also a threat to national security and global health when it … comes to this Wuhan outbreak.”
The Texas Republican went on to say that the virus possibly “could have been contained to a regional outbreak” if Beijing had acted transparently, and added that he was introducing legislation to sanction Chinese officials who engage in “actively censoring and silencing public health information that endangers the lives Americans and people around the globe.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a frequent China critic, also introduced legislation this week aimed at the Chinese government.
Hawley’s Justice for Victims of COVID-19 Act would strip China of its sovereign immunity, making the Chinese government liable for civil claims in US courts and thus allowing Americans to sue the country for damages.
His legislation, introduced on Tuesday, would allow US courts to freeze Chinese government assets so victims could enforce their claims against the global superpower.
“The CCP unleashed this pandemic. They must be held accountable to their victims,” Hawley said in a statement.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), also a staunch China hawk, was appointed by Johnson to oversee an investigation into the World Health Organization’s handling of the crisis.
Speaking to Politico about his probe Monday, Scott said that when it comes to the coronavirus, “we can’t trust communist China, we’ve learned we can’t trust the WHO because they lie to us.”
Scott added that he would focus his investigation on what the WHO’s plan was, when it knew how the virus was transmitted and when it grew skeptical of China’s claims that it had contained the outbreak.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that while his priority right now is on combating the virus, he would eventually shift his focus to holding Beijing accountable.
“The Communist Party of #China instinct is to exploit the #COVID_19 crisis for publicity and profit. It proves how they politicize everything because everything, even public health, is subservient to the party,” Rubio wrote in a tweet Wednesday.
“Let’s focus on crisis now,” he continued, “But the time will come for accountability.”