- - Wednesday, September 22, 2021

As we careen downhill towards the finish line of reconciliation/debt ceiling/fiscal 2022 appropriations, things happen that make you wonder.

For instance, last week, Democrats voted for child slave labor (you read that right).

During a markup of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s portion of reconciliation, Democrats uniformly opposed Republican Rep. Pete Stauber’s amendment prohibiting taxpayer money from being used to buy products made or mined by child slave labor.

The amendment also required the secretary of commerce to certify that any electric vehicles, charging stations, solar panels or other infrastructure components do not contain minerals sourced with forced child labor.

It’s not clear how anyone could oppose any of this, but the Democrats did.



It is probably worth noting that the minerals mined by children in the Congo and processed by slaves in China are essential to batteries and other elements of electric vehicles.

Mr. Stauber – a champion hockey player in college, a pro-labor Republican and a Minnesota representative sent directly from central casting — argued unremarkably and accurately that: “The unfortunate truth is that many of the technologies that Americans enjoy today are made with minerals sourced by child slaves working in Chinese-run mines in the Congo. …  Ending child labor across the globe should be an easy cause to get behind …”

He’s right. Unfortunately, for children in the Congo, however, the Democrats are funded in considerable measure by environmentalists, which means electric vehicles – however, and wherever they’re made – are sacramental in nature.

Oddly enough, when Mr. Stauber introduced a similar amendment last Congress, more than a dozen Democrats on the committee supported it. Naturally, that amendment was stripped by leadership before the legislation came to the floor.

At the time, Mr. Stauber, who is relatively new to town and therefore not wholly accommodated to its more horrible aspects, said: “Rather than continue to rely on nations that exploit child labor, we must hold our nation to a much higher standard and empower American workers to responsibly source these critical minerals here under the best environmental and labor standards in the world.  Ending child labor should not be a partisan effort …”

He’s right again: It shouldn’t be. But it is.

Which Democrats changed their mind about child and slave labor in the last 12 months? Who voted for the amendment last year and against it this year? Which lawmakers know that it is wrong to subsidize and encourage child and slave labor but decided to vote with the donors and against their consciences anyhow?

Fortunately, we have a list. Those who changed their votes include Reps. Rick Larsen of Washington, John Garamendi of California, Sean Maloney of New York, Julia Brownley of California, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, Salud Carabajal of California, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, Antonio Delgado of New York, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania.

It is worth pointing out that the last one – Mr. Lamb – is running for the Senate. Let’s hope the good people of Pennsylvania remember this vote when they vote for their next senator.

It is also worth noting that Mr. Maloney runs the campaign arm for the House Democrats and is, therefore, part of Democratic leadership.  Again, something else the voters should remember.

A few days before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia suggested that perhaps we should wait until next year to proceed on reconciliation. The idea was attacked, sotto voce, by his partisan brethren, mainly because waiting six months would kill the entire venture.

That’s almost certainly true.

Think about that for a moment, though. If the provisions in the reconciliation are such good ideas, they will certainly still be good ideas six months from now. What those who want to rush the process know is that few of the provisions can withstand any scrutiny, let alone prolonged scrutiny.

This brings us back to Mr. Stauber’s amendment against child and slave labor. Given six months to become aware of and educated about the amendment and what it would do, Americans of all political persuasions would, of course, be in favor of it and against child and slave labor.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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