WASHINGTON — For several high-profile House committees, their early hearings were dominated by partisan food fights over the Pledge of Allegiance, guns at rallies and a celebrity’s expletive-filled tweet about Donald Trump.

That is unlikely to be the case with the new select committee on China. Republicans and Democrats on the panel say it could be the only bright spot of bipartisan cooperation in a Congress brimming with partisan bickering.

“If you were looking at a word cloud on this, the biggest one would be ‘serious.’ I hear that from everyone. This is a serious committee, and I believe it,” said one member, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, DN.J., a former Navy helicopter pilot.

The two leaders of the China committee: Chairman Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois. — are setting the tone early on, identifying areas where they say they hope to find bipartisan agreement on policy and legislation.

Those areas include highlighting human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP; what Gallagher calls “economic statecraft” or coming up with a strategy to reduce America’s dependence on China; make investments in artificial intelligence, robotics and other new technologies to compete with China; and investigate the alliance between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, especially regarding the defense of Taiwan.

“They are engaged in a de facto alliance against the West. Putin is Xi’s junior partner. He is Xi’s tethered goat, and Xi is using him to wreak havoc in Europe,” said Gallagher, a retired Marine Corps captain who served in Iraq.

«I think the Republicans and the Democrats are mostly committed to helping Taiwan defend itself and ensuring that Taiwan’s future does not look like Ukraine’s present.»

The 24-member panel’s first hearing will likely take place in early March, and Gallagher said he would like to lead a delegation of committee members abroad in the near future, though nothing concrete has been planned.

mike gallagher
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on January 3. Carolyn Kaster/AP

The committee came under the spotlight this month when tensions rose with Beijing over China’s surveillance balloon that hovered over the continental US for several days before Air Force pilots shot it down on February 4. The military shot down a second «high-altitude object» flying over Alaskan airspace on Friday, though the US wasn’t sure it was foreign-owned.

While it won’t be the focus of the panel on China, Gallagher said the bursting of the globe «raises (pun intended) the threat posed by the CCP» and helps illustrate why Americans should care about China.

«So obviously I’ve been critical of the Biden administration’s response, and I don’t expect my fellow Democrats to join in that criticism, and I wouldn’t use the committee to shove them down their throats,» Gallagher said of the balloon incident. «But I think our focus will always be on the party. [CCP] and the threat that the party represents”.

two midwesterners

Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi have worked together since they both reached Congress in 2017. That year, the two teamed up to launch a new jobs caucus, and have served together on the House Intelligence Committee, where they hosted the media. attention after pressing Pentagon officials about other mysterious flying objects Unidentified Aerial Phenomenamore commonly known as UFOs.

«Despite the fact that he’s a Green Bay Packers fan and I’m a Bears fan, sworn adversaries, we actually share a lot in common in terms of our Midwestern heritage,» Krishnamoorthi said in a phone interview Friday. . “We formed the Medio Class Jobs Caucus together in our first year in Congress. So we’ve worked a lot together in the past.»

“We know each other pretty well, we get along well, and I think that will help move the collaboration forward.”

    (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., speaks on Capitol Hill on Aug. 10, 2022.Francis Chung/Politician via AP File

The House made a major bipartisan statement by creating the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party in a landslide vote of 365 to 65 at the start of this Congress.; 146 Democrats voted yes.

When Democratic leaders approached Sherrill and asked if he would serve on the panel, his first question was: Is this a serious committee addressing competition from China or just partisan smear?

Their concerns were eased after Chairman Kevin McCarthy revealed his list of Republicans for the panel, which included steady hands like Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, Andy Barr of Kentucky, Darin LaHood of Illinois, Dusty Johnson of South Dakota and Michelle California Steel.

Shortly after, Sherrill said Gallagher approached him with a series of questions: “Who are you going to name? You guys are making fun of serious people right?»

“So it was funny because I had some concerns about them because of my leadership. … He had some concerns for me, and I later assured him that that was our intention,” he said.

Sherrill participated with Gallagher last year in a war game exercise on what might happen if China attacks Taiwan. Afterwards, the two joined a panel discussion on the exercise of NBC’s «Meet the Press.»

Others also applauded the picks of McCarthy and Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries to the panel. Among the selected Democrats were Representatives Kathy Castor of Florida, Andre Carson of Indiana, Ro Khanna of California and Haley Stevens of Michigan.

“I am pleasantly surprised at how seriously the committee has been populated by thoughtful, substantive and serious members who take the issue of China and its malign activities seriously,” said LaHood, who sits with Gallagher, Krishnamoorthi and Carson on the panel on Intelligence. .

“I view this committee not as a Republican or a Democratic issue, but as an American issue,” LaHood added. «And I think that reflects on the people who are there.»

A new Cold War?

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the panel. Rep. Andy Kim, DN.J., a former State Department official in Afghanistan who also served on Obama’s White House national security team, is criticizing Republicans who have portrayed war with China as inevitable. And he singled out Gallagher by name for writing that America needs “win the new Cold War” against china

“If President Gallagher keeps talking about this as a ‘new Cold War,’ that doesn’t help. When I hear people across the aisle refer to China as the enemy, that’s not going to be helpful in the long run,» Kim told NBC News. “There is a fine line between deterrence and provocation, and you are crossing it in a way that will only inflame and create further challenges.”

Kim continued: “If you are going to point out to the American people that we are at war, that is a problem. And that’s something that I think is unnecessarily provocative; It’s also false.»

Rather than get defensive, Gallagher said he would try to sit down with Kim and have a conversation to address his colleague’s concerns.

“At the very least,” Gallagher said, “a cold war paradigm reminds us that we must strive to make sure it stays cold and doesn’t get hot and that our central role is deterrence and prevention of hot war.”