A Democratic senator on Wednesday blocked the final passage of a bipartisan bill to crack down on imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where Beijing is accused of using forced labor.
Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, stopped the vote Wednesday in a bid to extend President Biden’s child tax credit that’s been making direct payments of up to $300 per month to parents as part of COVID-19 relief.
Mr. Wyden’s move marks the latest in a series of obstacles for the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which authorizes sanctions against companies that facilitate the forced labor of Muslim minority groups, including Uyghurs, in Xinjiang and prohibits imports from the region unless Customs and Border Protection determines that no forced labor was used in production.
The House unanimously passed the bill Tuesday after the bill’s sponsors — Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat — reached an agreement on the final text. Most in Washington had expected the bill to move quickly through the Senate and to Mr. Biden’s desk on Wednesday.
But in a last-minute move, Mr. Wyden sought to attach an amendment to extend the child tax credit, which is due to expire on Jan. 1, for an additional year.
Mr. Rubio warned that extending the child tax credit has “bipartisan opposition” and the amendment would derail the bill.
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“It cannot pass unanimously, and even if it could and it did pass, we would have to send it back over to the House — not to the president — when the House isn’t even in session until January 10th,” Mr. Rubio said. “That doesn’t sound like a good arrangement to me, and it’s something that I would have to object to.”
Mr. Wyden said rejecting the child tax credit amendment was a missed opportunity for the Senate to take “two bold steps.”
“There was another way we could have stood with the effort to deal with genocide and forced labor and protect families, they weren’t mutually exclusive, we could have done both,” he said. “I think it’s unfortunate the Senate‘s not doing it.”
The bipartisan measure to address China’s widely-condemned treatment of Uyghur Muslims has caused repeated legislative dust-ups.
Earlier this month, Mr. Rubio blocked progress on the annual defense policy bill when Democrats removed Uyghur measures at the last minute.
In July, the Senate unanimously passed a version of the bill for inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would have forced the House to take up the measure.
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Democrats objected that the amendment would cause a “blue slip” problem, a procedural matter that requires legislation that raises revenue to originate in the House.
The House ultimately passed a standalone version by an overwhelming margin, only to see the final passage derailed by Mr. Wyden.
Mr. Rubio could tee up another vote Thursday.