8 GOP senators oppose Biden amnesty program benefiting China, other foreign adversaries

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FIRST ON FOX: GOP senators are calling on the Biden administration to scrap a proposed amnesty program for U.S.-based scientists and academics who failed to disclose foreign support in securing federal research grants. 

Sen. Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio, the top GOP member of the Intelligence Committee, are leading the effort in the Senate to oppose the Biden administration’s proposal to end a Trump-era crackdown on academics who received support from China.  

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The senators argue that American taxpayer-funded research must be protected from theft and from being weaponized against U.S. interests. 

“This is a complex problem, but an amnesty program rewarding individuals who broke federal law to steal U.S. taxpayer-funded research is simply not the answer,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland in a letter first obtained by Fox News.

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Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a Jan. 19, 2021 file photo. Portman is opposed to a Biden administration proposal to grant amnesty for U.S.-based scientists and academics who failed to disclose foreign support in securing federal research grants. 

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a Jan. 19, 2021 file photo. Portman is opposed to a Biden administration proposal to grant amnesty for U.S.-based scientists and academics who failed to disclose foreign support in securing federal research grants. 
(Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

Since 2019, federal prosecutors have brought more than a dozen criminal cases against academics accused of lying about receiving Chinese government funding or lying about their affiliation with the Chinese military. Now, Biden’s Justice Department is considering giving academics a pass by allowing them to disclose their past foreign funding without fear of punishment, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The letter was signed by eight GOP senators: Portman of Ohio, Rubio of Florida as well as Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Todd Young of Indiana and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. 

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The senators’ concerns are based in part on a bipartisan report the Senate released in 2019 on the scope of China’s efforts to steal U.S. research. The report found that China was seeking to exploit the more than $150 billion American taxpayers spend annually on scientific research through “talent recruitment” programs. China recruits U.S.-based scientists to transmit the American-funded research to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space and more. 

The senators also fault the Justice Department for not consulting with Congress and the relevant Inspectors General from large grant-making bodies like the National Science Foundation before considering the amnesty program. 

The senators are asking Garland to brief them on the plans by next week.

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“To better understand this significant and potentially deleterious impending policy change, please provide a briefing detailing the scope, nature, and timeline of DOJ’s amnesty program no later than May 12, 2021,” the senators wrote. 

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