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Republicans are holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, which has forced the president to cancel overseas stops meant to shore up American allies facing Chinese overtures.

The debt ceiling negotiations between Republican leaders and President Joe Biden have reached the point where the president has to cut short his upcoming Asia trip. Biden will still attend a major summit in Japan, but he has had to cancel planned stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea in order to return to Washington, DC.

This isn’t some tourist junket being scrapped. Presidential visits still carry weight, and this was supposed to be a sign of America’s commitment to Asian and Pacific Island allies as China uses both carrots (diplomacy) and sticks (military muscle) to grow its sphere of influence

This is where US Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) could make a difference and earn the bipartisan praise he’s seeking for the new committee he chairs—one being promoted as a panel designed to improve US-China relations.

Gallagher talks a lot about the difficulties in the US-China relationship and frequently draws parallels to the US Cold War with the Soviet Union. Just this week Gallagher received some more glowing press, simply for using a ceremonial gavel that belonged to former Wisconsin congressman Mel Laird, who later became US Defense Secretary under President Richard Nixon during the Cold War.

But if Congressman Gallagher really wants to be seen as a diplomat like Laird, he needs to do more than offer the usual hawkish rhetoric. This would be an ideal time for Gallagher to address his fellow Republicans and urge them to stop holding the economy hostage and allow the president to represent American interests abroad. Gallagher knows as well as anyone that if the US creates a vacuum in the region, China is more than willing to swoop in and be seen as a more willing global partner. That would be bad for American manufacturing, farming, and other parts of the economy where exporting is vital.

So would a debt ceiling face-off that leads America to default on its debts and triggers a recession.

“There’s countries like Russia and China that would love nothing more than for us to default so they could point the finger and say, ‘You see, the United States is not a stable, reliable partner,’” John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the New York Times this week. 

Washington has enough hawks. Gallagher is in a unique position where he could be among the cooler heads that prevail and help our country avoid both diplomatic and economic troubles.