FreeBeacon reports as his colleagues spent January engrossed by impeachment drama, Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) was growing increasingly worried by the stories coming out of Wuhan.
At home over MLK Day weekend, Cotton pored over East Asian and medical news sources, growing more and more concerned. As the Senate resumed what he called its “partisan impeachment of the president,” he was telling his staff to start planning and was stepping out of marathon sessions to lobby the administration to take action before the virus spread.
Cotton’s self-positioning as the Senate’s first corona-hawk earned him plenty of abuse from the media. Two months on, however, as the virus burns through the country, the senator who saw this all coming could be running a victory lap. Instead, he’s kept a steely-eyed focus on combating the virus at home—and on responding to the Chinese deceit that he thinks ignited the crisis.
“As we get through this pandemic, there has to be an accounting and a reckoning for China,” Cotton told the Washington Free Beacon in an interview. “Because China, through its dishonesty and corruption, turned what could have been a manageable local outbreak into a global pandemic that will ultimately cost not only our people, but the world, trillions and trillions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives.”
Cotton has already put his legislative money where his mouth is. He introduced a bill two weeks ago that would aim to onshore America’s pharmaceutical supply chain by banning the federal government from buying Chinese-made drugs.
He and Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) also recently debuted a proposal to permit the president to sanction foreign actors who conceal or distort information about “public health emergencies of international concern.” The bill is named for Dr. Li Wenliang, an early coronavirus whistleblower who faced sanctions from the Chinese government for his warning before he succumbed to the disease. (Cotton also cosponsored a resolution honoring Li.)
For Cotton, onshoring is just the start of the post-coronavirus “reckoning,” which will entail a full overhaul of America’s relationship with its third-largest trading partner, a country Cotton calls “our main geopolitical enemy.”
“We should reassess that relationship in every sector of imports. It’s one thing to import cheap toys or lawn furniture from China,” he said. “But if you get much higher in the value chain, it’s time to reassess it.”
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