5,000-Page Funding Bill Including COVID Relief Also Has Section Detailing Reincarnation of Dalai Lama

The 5,593-page government funding bill that includes the COVID-19 stimulus legislation also includes a section outlining the reincarnation and succession of the Dalai Lama.

The massive legislation was released publicly Monday after months of back-and-forth negotiations between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who announced Sunday that they had reached an agreement to provide further economic relief to Americans amid the surging coronavirus pandemic. The stimulus bill has been included with the appropriations bill that will keep the government funded moving forward. Due to the length of the legislation and the tight timeframe lawmakers are facing, most members of Congress will not likely have time to read the entire bill.

The legislation includes some notable sections that are not directly related to government funding or the pandemic.

Section 342 of the bill outlines a "statement of policy regarding the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama." Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, currently resides in exile in India after escaping from Tibet in 1959 amid a revolt against Chinese governance. Tibet was occupied by China in 1951 and incorporated as part of the East Asian nation.

Dalai Lama
In the U.S. Congress, the massive funding bill including COVID relief also has a section detailing the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Here the Tibetan spiritual leader gestures during teachings in Bodhgaya in India on January 5. SUMAN/AFP/Getty

"Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in many countries including Bhutan, India, Mongolia, Nepal, the People's Republic of China, the Russian Federation, and the United States, yet the Government of the People's Republic of China has repeatedly insisted on its role in managing the selection of Tibet's next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, through actions such as those described in the 'Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas' in 2007," the bill explains.

The legislation outlines how China has interfered in the succession process, even reportedly detaining a 6-year-old boy who was identified by some as the reincarnated Dalai Lama in 1995. It also directs the Secretary of State to establish a U.S. consulate in Tibet, which would likely be seen as a challenge to China.

"Interference by the Government of the People's Republic of China or any other government in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama and any future Dalai Lamas would represent a clear abuse of the right to religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people," the text of the legislation says.

The bill adds that the U.S. government has the right to implement sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the succession process. "The Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom should support efforts to protect and promote international religious freedom in China and for programs to protect Tibetan Buddhism in China and elsewhere," it says.

Newsweek reached out to press representatives for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for comment on the inclusion of the text but did not immediately receive a response.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, criticized the fact that lawmakers will not have time to read the lengthy bill before they are required to vote on it.

"Congress is expected to vote on the second largest bill in US history *today* - $2.5 trillion - and as of about 1pm, members don't even have the legislative text of it yet," she wrote in a tweet prior to the release of the text.

"It's not good enough to hear about what's in the bill. Members of Congress need to see & read the bills we are expected to vote on," Ocasio-Cortez added. "I know it's 'controversial' & I get in trouble for sharing things like this, but the people of this country deserve to know. They deserve better."