Swamp Buckles to China, Corporations in Defense Bill Winter Olympics Debate

TOPSHOT - This picture taken on October 10, 2017 shows a party flag of the Chinese Communi
WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

Several establishment Republicans helped Democrats block a measure that would penalize companies for enabling the Chinese Communist Party’s hosting of next year’s winter Olympics in Beijing during a House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday.

During the NDAA markup, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) offered an amendment that would have blocked corporations that sponsor the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from selling their products on U.S. military installations like military bases as long as the IOC keeps next year’s winter Olympics in Beijing, China.

Waltz said during debate when he offered the amendment:

    Mr. Chairman, this amendment prohibits the sale of products from sponsors of the International Olympic Committee on military installations unless they terminate their sponsorship of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Those sponsors include companies like Alibaba Group, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Toyota. I want to be clear—this amendment does not affect the sponsors of Team USA or the U.S. Olympic Committee. All of these companies can continue to sponsor our athletes. But I do want to take a moment and remind our colleagues of the State Department’s report on Chinese genocide under President Biden where they’ve called what’s going on against the Muslim Uyghurs ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity.’

Waltz made clear that many of these companies—like Coca-Cola, which was aggressive in its criticism of Georgia’s election integrity law adopted earlier this year—have chosen to make social and political causes a point of their business models and that the United States should not allow them to use access to the U.S. military to continue enabling the IOC keeping the Olympics next year in the Communist nation. Despite such companies criticizing Republicans here in the United States, they remain silent on the horrific human rights abuses the Chinese Communist Party is currently engaged in in places like Hong Kong and against Uyghur Muslims. Waltz said:

We’ve all heard many of these corporations speak out against—or talk about their moral responsibility or speak out on social or political issues in the past year and I think we have to ask ourselves where is their moral responsibility when addressing the Chinese Communist Party’s gross violations of human rights. We cannot, and the world cannot, continue to legitimize the CCP’s acts of genocide and destruction of human rights in Hong Kong, dangerous suppression of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, and so many other abuses that have cost so many lives by financially supporting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Both American and global corporations are complicit in whitewashing these offenses.

Waltz said continuing to allow these products to be sold on military installations while they are funding an effort to give a propaganda victory like hosting the Olympics to the Chinese Communist Party so soon after the Chinese coronavirus pandemic emanated from China and disrupted the entire planet would be a mistake of the highest order.

“It’s like giving fuel to the arsonist as we spend billions to fund a firefighting service,” Waltz said. “This is how China wins. They’re going to win economically and I encourage my colleagues to use this as an opportunity to make a stand.”

Debate on the amendment was contentious, as nearly all Democrats opposed the measure, including committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-CA). But surprisingly, even some Republicans—at the apparent urging of special interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which worked against the amendment according to a GOP congressional aide familiar with the matter—spoke up against it during the debate and voted against its consideration later on.

“It pains me to go against my colleague from Florida because we normally agree on issues in this committee,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said while reading off a sheet of paper criticisms he had of the amendment.

“I’m afraid it’s a case of aiming your gun at the Chinese Communist Party but you’re hitting an innocent bystander, in this case American companies and military families and athletes,” Lamborn added, defending the corporations this measure would inflict consequences upon.

Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT), one of the handful of Republicans who actually defended Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) when she lost her conference chair position after her vote to impeach now former President Donald Trump, called the amendment “misguided and maybe too myopic in its approach.”

Then Moore launched into a full fledged defense of corporate boardrooms like the one at Procter & Gamble, saying they did not choose China to host the Olympics next year. “These companies didn’t choose China,” Moore said. “P&G didn’t choose China. They’re subject to what ultimately gets presented and they’ve been long supporters of the Olympics. I believe in the Olympics and I believe in the Olympic spirit and creating positive change in our society.”

While those companies may not have chosen China, they do sponsor the IOC, which did choose China—and they also generally all do business on a wide scale in China, thereby enabling the Chinese Communist Party, something Moore said nothing about.

Nonetheless, Moore claimed in his next breath to actually oppose China—without saying what exactly he intends to do about the Chinese Communist Party. “I will ultimately oppose this but I absolutely support the overall concept of ‘we need to make an actual, effective change against China,’” Moore said.

After debate concluded in the committee markup on Waltz’s amendment, Smith—the chairman—called a voice vote on it and attempted to claim the no votes won via voice vote. So Waltz interjected and asked for a recorded vote, which Smith delayed nearly two hours. The measure was eventually defeated there on the recorded vote, but it came dangerously close to passage.

In total, six establishment Republicans—including most ironically one from Georgia, Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), whose state’s new voting law is the one that Coca-Cola and other “woke” corporations have lambasted—voted against the measure.

The six Republicans who voted no are Reps. Scott, Moore, Lamborn, Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Rob Wittman (R-VA), and Mike Turner (R-OH). Cheney, whom Moore had previously defended to remain the conference chair of the House GOP but was stripped of her position anyway, even voted yes on this measure.

Interestingly, one Democrat—Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who has been recently under fire over comments he made about Americans stranded in Afghanistan—voted yes.

Even more interesting on this is the fact that two Democrats—Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)—originally voted yes, but later changed their votes to no at the end of the roll call. Panetta’s father is former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta–who served in several senior roles in multiple Democrat administrations–so the idea he made some kind of mistake when negotiating and debating on amendments on a defense bill like the NDAA is simply unlikely, and his decision to flip his vote is curious.

All in all this means the measure failed, with 22 yes votes and 36 no votes. But, if all the Republicans had voted yes—and those two Democrats, Speier and Panetta, had not changed their votes after the fact and stayed as yes votes—the measure actually would have passed.

So in other words, thanks to two Democrat flip-floppers and six establishment Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, mega corporations that enable the Chinese Communist Party being selected as the host for next year’s winter Olympics can breathe a sigh of relief they can still push their products on military bases—at least for now.


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