In the aftermath of the November 8 midterm elections, what has changed for American foreign policy, in particular the American economic policy agenda? The easy answer is “not a lot”. Neither the House nor the Senate has become noticeably more pro-Beijing or pro-free trade since the election results came in.
It remains to be seen, however, whether cooperation on an agenda for American workers will be a priority for the two parties now that they must share power.
Even if the answer is “not much”, has amended? Certainly the most notable differences are found in the House, where Republicans will now lead, appoint committee heads and set the overall agenda. The Democrats lost their longtime leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, whatever else people think of her, has been a vocal critic of the People’s Republic of China. long before his visit to Taiwan this summer. Now that she is stepping down from her leadership role, along with her longtime wingman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic leadership likely goes to New York’s Hakeem Jeffries, who has a sparse record, not just on China, but foreign police in general.
On the Republican side, Michael McCaul of Texas now seems set to lead the Foreign Relations Committee. McCaul’s recent statements likely encouraged proponents of economic rulemaking, as he not only highlighted the PRC as a national security threat, but said he hopes to counter it by bringing more manufacturing back to US shores. McCaul is also the founder of the Congressional High Tech Caucus, which supports the nation’s tech industry. McCaul will find support from, among others, Steve Chabot, who served as a senior member of the subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Non-Proliferation, and a noisy China Falcon. Given the economic nature of the rivalry, it should also be noted that the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to be led by Florida’s Vern Buchanan, who has already had much to say about the “economic war» with China and strengthening manufacturing in the United States
And, of course, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California has already faced a challenge at his direction. There is a good chance that he will do it again in January, when the House will formally vote on the next speaker, given the chaos that would ensue if he fell short. In foreign policy, McCarthy has focused more on the Middle East than East Asia, but has long looked at the creation of a select committee on the PRC, seeing this as an area of bipartisan compromise. These efforts had previously been thwarted with the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, but it has recently promised that such a committee will become a reality if his candidacy for the presidency is successful.
In the Senate, where party control will not change, the impacts of the midterm elections are much more modest. Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is stepping down and will be replaced by Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. He would not be fair call Toomey a dove from China, anyhowbut Toomey, backed by the Club for Growth, has also been a strong supporter of free exchangehaving requested exceptions to customs duties on Chinese goods and obtained a reprimand of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, to begin with.
When it comes to foreign policy, Fetterman is largely a blank slate, having held only one statewide and local post in Pennsylvania. His sound clips, at least so far, don’t to suggest accommodations to Beijing, however, and close relations with unions suggest a more pro-worker stance, which could be channeled into support for relocation efforts. Fetterman, however, will be a first-time senator with little influence, at least initially, and maintaining Democratic control of the Senate means minimal turnover at the head of relevant committees. Foreign relations appears to remain led by Bob Menendez of New Jersey, one of the most Democratic senators. falcon members at large, and the Senate Finance Committee which serves as the counterpart to House Ways and Means appears to remain under the leadership of Ron Wyden of Oregon, who has had much to say about Chinese”digital authoritarianism” and the need to fight it.
What does all this mean? For one, the Biden administration’s only major legislative victories of 2022 — the CHIPS and Science Act and the Cut Inflation Act, both of which were designed to relocate high-tech industries — remain. safe. The PRC is unpopular among elected officials of both parties and their voters. However, a divided government will significantly undermine the Biden government’s efforts to pass major new legislation unless it has broad bipartisan support.
The good news is that there remain new opportunities to decrease PRC influence on US supply chains, relocate manufacturing and partnership with friendly countries which enjoy comparative advantages that the United States does not have. The question is whether the representatives will agree to take advantage of it.
Perhaps the clearest example of the emerging bipartisan view of the PRC challenge could be seen in the Ohio Senate race. Like other campaigns in the Midwest, Senator-elect JD Vance and his surprisingly stiff challenger Tim Ryan have sought to surpass each other over their warmongering toward China, indicating that the American heart is in tune with dealing with the rise of Beijing, especially in the area of industrial policy. In the end, the Hillbilly Elegy The author’s message resonated most clearly with Ohioans, giving him a clear mandate for the senatorship that won’t serve American lunch to the Chinese, as his predecessors may have done.
The neoliberals and free-marketers who remain in the Republican Party may argue for fiscal conservatism and trade liberalization, but they will win no support in America’s rapidly transforming electric vehicle belt. Populist Republicans in the Trump administration, including the former president himself, were among the first to identify this disregard for free trade agreements. Now, it looks like a few Democrats get it. Democrats in manufacturing and mining states are clearly aware of this transformation. Newly re-elected Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s mining support in his condition is a case in point. She joins the Blue Dog Democrats club, alongside Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving the Democratic Party’s progressive team on utopian initiatives like the Green New Deal and embracing more practical measures that strengthen supply chains and promote job creation. His policy divergence could be what the doctor ordered for a strong supply chain of critical minerals.
The PRC controls several critical minerals value chains and siding with environmentalists to stifle Nevada mining companies will only help China. In the United States, Nevada is the leading producer of gold, silver and barite, the second largest producer of diatomite and lithium and the only producer of mined magnesite and mercury. Reviving America’s primacy in manufacturing and transforming the economy into an innovative economy that manufactures semiconductors and batteries requires complementary public policy. Stifling the operations of the only active lithium mine in the country when China processes 80% of the critical ore will be a reckless policy; fortunately for America, the mining state is represented by a Democrat who understands.
When it comes to foreign policy and particularly the PRC, another type of horseshoe theory emerges. It is a coalition of centrist Blue Dog Democrats and right-wing economic populists. Free marketers and progressives are the doves, even if for different reasons. The midterm results would indicate that the leadership choices of the American electorate oscillate between the center and the extreme right, at least if China, trade and foreign policy were on the ballot.
What will be the priorities of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives? Specifically, do they see the PRC as a bigger threat than Joe Biden? If so, opportunities for bipartisan cooperation remain. But first signs suggest focusing on internal function the administration in place; one might fear that the focus on the missteps of Biden and his family could distract from the PRC’s influence on US supply chains.
Receive weekly emails in your inbox
That’s not to say that Hunter Biden’s relationships, especially with foreign actors, aren’t worth examining, or that every dollar spent helping Ukraine fend off Russia was well spent. Our recommendation is in no way to abandon oversight of the Biden administration. But keep a balance: stay focusrecognizing that the relocation program is good for American national security, good for American jobs and, at least in this case, not at all bad for Republican electoral prospects.
Economic governance is an agenda that will survive the Biden administration, regardless of the president in January 2025. Former President Trump has announced that he is seeking re-election in 2024, but he seems likely to face to tougher challenges than in 2016, and certainly 2020. His strongest potential opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has been a vigorous supporter of his state as a tourism and Company partner of other countries, especially those who have been friends with the United States. He also promoted legislation to limit the influence of hostile countriesincluding the PRC, as it stands.
Trump will enjoy many advantages in a face-to-face with DeSantis: greater name recognition, far superior natural eloquence and his own role as a GOP kingmaker, which DeSantis himself benefited from in his first run for office. of governor. But the price the former president is paying for changing Republican orthodoxy on trade and relations with the PRC is that, unlike in 2016, his 2024 opponents are less likely to be out-of-touch champions of the old consensus. Among the lessons of the 2022 midterms is that an art of America’s economic state first will outlast Biden and might outlast Trump.