Tester Calls Out “obstructionism” in Congress, Pushes for Action to Stay Ahead of China During Banking Hearing

Senator: “Doggonit, this shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat or House or Senate issue. This is the United States of America. And so keeping our country safe, not allowing China to spy on us, is really, really important”

Speaking at a Senate Banking Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Jon Tester sharply criticized “obstructionism” in Congress for blocking his efforts to protect Montana and help stay ahead of the pacing threat of China. 

Tester specifically expressed frustration that his bipartisan legislation to prevent foreign adversaries from acquiring American farmland and agribusinesses, and his bipartisan legislation to hold China accountable for their role in the fentanyl crisis, were obstructed by the House despite receiving overwhelming support in the Senate.

“We had an opportunity to do some things in last year’s NDAA… The House blocked every damn thing we tried to do, whether it’s my FEND OFF Fentanyl bill that we had a hearing on last week that would have held Chinese entities accountable… or whether it was an amendment led by Senator Rounds and myself that would have stopped China and foreign adversaries… North Korea, Iran and Russia, from buying farmland, which was also blocked by the Republican leadership in the House,” said Tester. “I’m going to tell you, it doesn’t take anybody with a brain to do obstruction. And so if obstructionism is the rule of the day, the House is doing it and they’re doing it really well to the destruction of this country.”

Tester noted that recent reporting about a foreign billionaire from China purchasing 200,000 acres of farmland in Oregon should push Congress to act swiftly on his bipartisan legislation to address this food security and national security issue: “I’m a farmer. Most people understand that food security is national security. If you want to screw up a country, screw around with their food supply. Recently we just got word that a Chinese national bought 200,000 acres of land in Oregon. We didn’t know about it. That means our system doesn’t work. It means self-reporting doesn’t work. These folks don’t want to self-report. And so we’ve got some work to do here, but doggonit, this shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat or House or Senate issue. This is the United States of America. And so keeping our country safe, not allowing China to spy on us, is really, really important.”

Additionally, Tester pressed officials at the hearing about reports that American-made technology was used in the Chinese spy balloon and asked what the U.S. can do to stop this from happening again: “There’s been a lot of talk about exploiting American innovation here today, and it’s a fact, and we need to make sure that we stop that from happening. When the spy balloon that went over the United States was shot down, there was some information that was delivered that they used some technology that was bought in this country… Is there any way to stop this kind of stuff from happening? Is there anything we could do?”

Tester has led efforts to ensure America stays ahead of the pacing threat of China.

Tester has introduced two bipartisan bills — the Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act and the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act — to prohibit America’s foreign adversaries including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from purchasing or leasing U.S. farmland. Tester secured his bipartisan PASS Act as an amendment to the Senate-passed version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Tester’s amendment was ultimately stripped out of the final NDAA by Speaker Johnson and House Republicans. 

Tester’s bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act would crack down on China’s role in the fentanyl crisis by imposing economic sanctions on those engaged in the international trafficking of illicit fentanyl, precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, or other related opioids, and by declaring international trafficking of fentanyl as a national emergency. Tester successfully included his FEND Off Fentanyl Act as an amendment to the Senate’s bipartisan NDAAbut it was again stripped out of the final NDAA by Speaker Johnson and House Republicans. In November, Tester sent a letter urging President Biden to push Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more to stop the flow of illicit precursor chemicals that are exported from China. 

Additionally, Tester successfully secured the inclusion of his bipartisan amendment to the Senate NDAA demanding an investigation into how China uses American technology in foreign espionage programs, including the Chinese spy balloon. Tester’s bipartisan provision to examine the use of American-made technology in the Chinese spy balloon was successfully included in the conference report of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As Chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Tester continues to lead oversight efforts around the Chinese spy balloon, including boosting the military’s budget to ensure the Pentagon has the tools it needs to better prevent these evolving threats. Tester led the first public hearing on the Chinese spy balloon shortly after it flew over Montana.