WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats in Congress are backing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging her to abide by a possible visit to Taiwan as plain President Joe Biden said the Department of Defense believes such a trip is “not a good idea right now.”
China has gone much further, warning that it would respond with “forceful measures” if Pelosi, D-Calif., sets foot on the Democratic island, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.
The potential visit has created a rare, high-profile intra-partisan rift between Pelosi, a staunch supporter of Taiwan and an outspoken critic of human rights abuses in China, and officials in the Biden administration, who are wary of the escalation of violence. tensions with the Asian superpower.
But it has also created some bipartisan unity on Capitol Hill.
“If I were the speaker, I would walk away,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who has worked with Pelosi in Congress for more than two decades.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who previously served with Pelosi in the House, said, “If she wants to go, I certainly think she should go. And I think she should be more motivated to go now that she’s gotten discouraged.” , and her colleagues should join her.”
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm, said, “I think it’s important that we go out there and tell Taiwan that it’s an important democratic ally. We should make it clear that there is no doubt that we will support them if they are invaded by Communist China.”
Several Democrats offered similar encouragement.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, DN.J.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a member of the Intelligence Committee, said, “The Chinese are not going to restrict the House Speaker’s travel.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, said, “No one should go anywhere because the Chinese government, which is guilty of genocide, is speaking in threatening terms.”
Newt Gingrich was the last House Speaker to visit Taiwan, and that was in 1997. Pelosi visited in 1999, when she was not in a leadership position.
However, some Democrats said the timing of a trip to Taiwan carries economic and geopolitical risks. Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to hold a phone call soon that will cover topics ranging from tensions over Taiwan and the war in Ukraine to managing competition between the United States and China, a spokesman for China said on Tuesday. the White House.
A House Democrat, who requested anonymity to discuss the political dynamic, said: “Many Republicans want him to go as a show of force, while many Democrats are concerned about the risks of unnecessary provocation, particularly in light of high inflation, an unstable oil market and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, expressed some reservations about Pelosi’s trip.
“I think we should have a purpose. If we’re going to change our Taiwan policy, let’s make it a collective decision to do so. Let’s not do it by accident through a series of uncoordinated steps,” Murphy said.
“Obviously, the House Speaker’s visit to Taiwan is a significant step that suggests recognition: formal diplomatic recognition is not part of our current policy,” he said.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he also had concerns, but added that Pelosi now needs to make the trip so the United States doesn’t appear weak in the face of threats from China.
“Had I been consulted, I would have advised against travel at this particular time. But since it’s public now, we need to show that no one country dictates where we travel and who we meet,” Phillips said. “The world is watching and it is imperative that the United States reaffirms its convictions and determination.”
Pelosi, 82, had hoped to lead an official congressional delegation to Taiwan in the spring but was sidelined by a last-minute Covid diagnosis. In the last few days there reports I would try again during the August break. A spokesperson for Pelosi said his office would not “confirm or deny international travel in advance due to longstanding security protocols.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D.R.I., agreed with Phillips that it’s hard for Pelosi to “back down now.” But he added that she could “turn the volume down” by taking a smaller group of lawmakers and flying in a private plane instead of a military or government plane.
“I think he has to go, but he can take steps to make it a fact-finding trip and not something that can be exploited by the other side,” Reed said. “That is the danger: the Chinese could exploit the visit for their own needs.”
Congress is about to pass major legislation to boost domestic production of computer chips and competition with China. On Tuesday, the package known as “CHIPS-plus” topped a key procedural hurdle in the Senate; he is on track to pass both chambers by the end of the week.
At his weekly news conference Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, referred to what he called an “alternative” on Pelosi’s travel plans.
“I think far more important than traveling to Taiwan is making sure that we’ve worked with them to make sure their defenses are adequate for threats that may come from mainland China,” said McConnell, whose wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, was born. in Taipei.
“I think we should refocus on what kind of military equipment they have, is it the right kind? And if not, work with them to make sure they actually have weapons that will deter the Chinese in case there is such an attack.”