WASHINGTON — Breaking with the Bush Administration, the House today voted 418 to 0 to approve legislation imposing new U.S. sanctions on China.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III said the Administration did not support the legislation, attached as an amendment to a foreign aid bill, but stopped short of saying the bill would be vetoed.
Drafted by key members of both parties, the amendment condemns in strong language the Beijing government's June 3-4 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tian An Men Square and subsequent executions and mass arrests.
It praises actions already taken by Bush, codifies his sanctions into law and adds more sanctions.
To become law it would also have to be approved by the Senate and signed by Bush.
The amendment would require Bush to suspend use of foreign-aid funds to support trade and development activities with China, continue a suspension of export licenses for military equipment and suspend exports of crime control or detection equipment.
It would also deny an export license for a satellite to be launched by a Chinese space rocket and halt nuclear exports to China.
The Administration would also have to negotiate with other Western governments to have the Coordinating Committee that monitors sensitive exports to communist countries--known as Cocom--to bar liberalization of exports of technology to China for six months.
The sanctions could be ended if the President states to Congress that China has made progress on political reform, including lifting martial law, halting executions, releasing political prisoners and permitting the free flow of information.
The legislation would also set up a task force to assess the needs of Chinese students and others in the United States.
As the House opened debate on China, Baker told reporters at the White House that the Administration could not support the amendment in its present form. He stopped short of saying the bill would be vetoed.
Baker said that Bush had been "on the right track" in his response to the Chinese crackdown and had in place "properly constructed" sanctions.
"He has forcefully expressed his outrage and his sorrow. In addition to that he has taken a number of significant actions by way of sanctions," Baker said.
"I believe many Americans believe and understand that no elected official in the United States understands China better than the President of the United States," he said.
But Bush's chief ally in the Democratic-controlled House, Republican leader Robert H. Michel, supporting the legislation, said it was important to forge a bipartisan foreign policy with congressional support.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) who played a leading role in drafting the legislation, said it would send a message to Chinese leaders that they could not engage in massive repression without paying a price in terms of their relations with the West.
He said the legislation steered a careful course between two extremes--those who would sever diplomatic and commercial relations and those who "did not want us to take any action . . . lest we disturb the sleep of (senior Chinese leader) Deng Xiaoping and perhaps drive the Chinese into the arms of the Soviet Union."
William S. Broomfield of Michigan, the senior Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, who worked with Solarz on the legislation, said he regretted that the Administration was not supporting it.