Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) labeled China a “respectable nation” in a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
The committee convened to discuss a bill introduced by Senator Martha McSally (R., Ariz.) that would allow U.S. citizens to sue the Chinese government for damages stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We hold China as a potential trading partner, as a country that has pulled tens of millions of people out of poverty in a short period of time, and as a country growing into a respectable nation amongst other nations,” Feinstein said, in comments first reported by the Washington Free Beacon. “I deeply believe that.”
Feinstein’s comments come as American public opinion on China has soured among voters of both parties. The Pew Research Center has found that 83 percent of Republican voters viewed China unfavorably, compared with 63 percent of Democrats.
Feinstein argued against allowing Americans to sue China over the coronavirus, saying such a move would open the U.S. government to lawsuits by other foreign nationals. McSally’s legislation is backed by a number of co-sponsors including Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.).
“China’s Communist Party must face consequences for concealing and now profiting off of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Blackburn wrote on Twitter on Thursday after the Judiciary Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor.
Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum has held various business investments in China over the years. The California senator has said there is a “firewall” between her husband’s business and her activities in Congress.