Washington, DC – House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a full committee hearing on the Biden Administration’s priorities for U.S. foreign policy. 

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– Questions as Delivered –

Lead Republican McCaul: Thank you Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary, we have limited time – I’m just going to get right into it. I’m going to start with the crisis at the border. Recently, the Biden Administration canceled asylum cooperation agreements and remain in Mexico. Since that time, we’ve seen a massive surge of migrants crossing and causing a crisis at our southern border. Why did the President rescind these agreements that were supported by our neighbors to the south?

Secretary Blinken:  Thank you. As a general matter, I really want to defer to my colleague, Ale Mayorkas, at DHS to deal with questions on immigration. I would just say with regard to those agreements, only one of them was actually in effect with Guatemala. You’re correct that all three were rescinded. But the President is determined that we have a safe, orderly, and humane border. There’s a lot of work that goes into making it such. It’s going to take time to do that, and we very much look forward to working with Congress to try to achieve that, to have a rational asylum process, to have a refugee program that works once again to the best traditions of our country, and to make sure, again, that the border is safe, it is orderly, but it is also humane. But as I said, this takes time to do. In the meantime, we’ve also been very clear in saying to people “do not come to the United States now; do not attempt irregular migration.”

LR McCaul: I’ll question the Secretary of Homeland Security next week. The messaging has been a little mixed, and I think it appears to be, you know, we’re open. And I’ve been – I live in a border state, I was a federal prosecutor; you know when you send that message down there, they’re going to come. And they are coming. And it’s causing – it has created a humanitarian crisis down there and we have so many children that we can’t even detain right now. Let me move onto Nord Stream 2. I recently sent you a letter requesting additional sanctions on the fifteen entities reportedly working on Nord Stream 2 pipeline. As you know, these sanctions are mandatory. So my questions is – and they’re about 90 percent ready to complete this project. Will you commit to submitting new sanctions on these fifteen additional entities as soon as possible?

Secretary Blinken: So, on Nord Stream 2, a couple of things at the outset, just to be very, very clear. President Biden thinks it’s a bad idea. He said so repeatedly. I share his view. It violates the European Union’s own energy security principles, it jeopardizes the economic and strategic situation for Ukraine, for Poland as well. So, he opposes it, we oppose it, and we’ll continue to do so. I’ve been on the job – I think five weeks, the pipeline is 95 percent complete. It started – construction started in 2018 – so I wish we didn’t find ourselves in a situation with a pipeline that’s virtually complete.

LR McCaul: And I agree. I think sanctioning these fifteen entities would be great.

On Iran, negotiations are always best from a position of strength. You know that as a diplomat. President Trump imposed a maximum pressure campaign that I believe gives us leverage as you go into these discussions. Sir, will you commit to me and to this committee that you will formally consult with us before lifting any sanctions with Iran?

Secretary Blinken: Yeah, we’re determined to consult on the takeoff, not on the landing, across the board. But, yes, particularly when it comes to Iran. If there is any movement on this – and thus far there hasn’t been – yes, we will do so. And by the way, not just – Congress is the first stop – but also allies, partners, including allies, and partners in the region, who have their own concerns and own interests at stake.

LR McCaul: Well I think you have leverage and I wouldn’t let up on it. I don’t trust the Ayatollah, I don’t know how you can possibly negotiate with the Ayatollah. I commend you for trying to, as we also try to negotiate with the Taliban. I think these are the two most difficult, you know, organizations to negotiate with. And so, I wish you the best on that effort. It’s a big challenge, as you know.

On China, you testified yourself that genocide is occurring in China, and I agree with you and so does Congress, and so did the previous administration. We’ve labeled it genocide, we put sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for these crimes against humanity. What additional steps are you prepared to take to stop this genocide?

Secretary Blinken: A number of things, and I share that view. I share the deep concern about it. I think there are a number of things that we can do, should do, and will do. First of all, it’s important to speak up and speak out, and to make sure that other countries are doing the same thing. The more China hears not just our opprobrium, but a course of opprobrium from around the world the better the chance that we’ll get some changes. We have a number of steps we have taken, or can take, going forward to include for those directly responsible for acts of genocide, gross human rights violations – sanctions, visa restrictions, etc. I think it would be very important if China claims that there’s nothing going on, that it gives access to the international community, to the United Nations. If they have nothing to hide, show it to us, show the world. So, we’ll be calling for that. And then I think there’s a series of practical things that are very, very important. For example, we should make sure that we are not exporting, and others are not exporting, to China any products that can be used for repression of their people and their minorities. Similarly, we shouldn’t be bringing into this country products created by forced labor, including from Xinjiang. So those are some practical things that we can and should do. But for sure, we’re going to start by speaking out forcefully on this.

LR McCaul: Thank you, sir.