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The Senate has a vital debate ahead that could be important for the future of the U.S.-China relationship. Last Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would bolster military assistance to Taiwan, authorizing a modest $6.5 billion to purchase U.S. weapons over five years.
This legislation was dubbed the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 and passed the committee by a final vote of 17-5, with one bipartisan dissenting vote, most notably those of Chris Murphy (D), Ed Markey (D), Brian Schatz (D) and Rand Paul (R).
The vote evidences Democratic and Republican support for a possible defense of Taiwan, given that, if passed, it would be the first time the U.S. would directly fund the island’s arms supply.
What’s in the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022?
Very pleased to see that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Risch, passed the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 that I cosponsored with Senator Menendez.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 15, 2022
“We need to be clear-eyed about what we are facing, just as we need to be clear in our response. We are carefully and strategically lowering the existential threats facing Taiwan by raising the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too high a risk and unachievable,” said Menéndez, president of the Committee.
According to the Financial Times, the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 will also create a $2 billion loan facility aimed at helping the island buy arms. In turn, it will require the White House to impose sanctions on at least five Chinese state-owned banks if they believe China engaged in a “significant escalation in aggression” against Taiwan.
In addition, legislators clarified during the debate that the bill does not change US policy on Taiwan but rather reinforces it. For Senator Jim Risch (R) of Idaho, it “gives [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping reasons to think twice about invading Taiwan.”
However, the opposition the legislation is likely to face in the Senate does not suggest it will become law as originally written. Indeed, while Mitt Romney (R) voted for it, he acknowledged that “we’re doing something that’s highly provocative and bellicose” and suggested that the bill’s treatment could encourage China to take military action in Taiwan.
The former Republican presidential nominee claimed he voted in favor only because he assumes the bill will receive some modifications before becoming law.
A similar suggestion was made by Senator Brian Schatz, who said the bill, a companion to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, could “irritate the Chinese” negatively.
The committee also voted in favor of an amendment by Tim Kaine (D) that would prevent any U.S. president from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO in the absence of a two-thirds vote of the Senate or an act of Congress, which translates to an affirmative vote of the House and Senate.
Joe Biden assured that the U.S. would defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack
In an interview with 60 Minutes, the president was asked about his action on a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. “U.S. Forces, U.S. men, and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?” journalist Scott Pelley asked. Without hesitation, Biden looked at him and answered “yes.”
After the interview, however, the White House had to clarify the situation. “After our interview a White House official told us U.S. policy has not changed. Officially, the U.S. will not say whether American forces would defend Taiwan. But the commander-in-chief had a view of his own,” clarified 60 Minutes.
Joaquín Núñez es hincha de Racing Club de Avellaneda y licenciado en comunicación periodística por la Universidad Católica Argentina. Se especializa en el escenario internacional y en la política norteamericana // Joaquín Núñez is a fan of Avellaneda's Racing Club and has a degree in journalistic communication from the Universidad Católica Argentina. He specializes in the international scene and American politics.