$250 BILLION bill approved to compete with China: Democrats and Representatives unite to win tech race with Beijing
The Senate has approved the largest investment in scientific research in decades, with a $250 billion spending program designed to help the United States compete with China.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill on Tuesday that aims to boost U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing international competition, particularly from China.
The 68-32 votes in favor of the bill show how the economic confrontation with China is an issue that unites both parties in Congress. That’s seen as a rarity in an era of division, as pressure mounts on Democrats to change Senate rules to get past Republican opposition and stalemate.
The centerpiece of the bill is a $50 billion emergency allocation to the Department of Commerce to increase semiconductor development and manufacturing through research and incentive programs previously approved by Congress.
On March 16, workers are seen passing through a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Malta, New York. Much of the $250 billion fund — about $50 billion — will be spent on semiconductor research
The total cost of the bill would increase spending by about $250 billion, with most spending occurring in the first five years.
It’s because the country’s share of semiconductor manufacturing worldwide has steadily declined from 37 percent in 1990 to about 12 percent today, and a chip shortage has exposed vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain.
“The premise is simple: If we want American workers and American companies to continue to lead the world, the federal government must invest in science, basic research and innovation, just as we did decades after World War II,” said Chuck Schumer, the executive director. Senate Majority Leader.
“Whoever wins the race for the technologies of the future will become the world economic leader with profound implications for foreign policy and also for national security.”
Mitch McConnell, his Republican counterpart, said the bill was incomplete because it no longer contained Republican-sponsored amendments. He supported it anyway.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen passing the bill on Tuesday. His team spent at least two years working on some of the legislation included in the plan
Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said the bill was incomplete because it no longer contained Republican-sponsored amendments. However, he voted for
“It goes without saying that the final approval of this legislation cannot be the Senate’s last word on our competition with China,” McConnell said.
“It certainly won’t be mine.”
President Joe Biden applauded the bill’s passage in a statement Tuesday night, saying: “As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind.
“America must maintain its position as the most innovative and productive nation on Earth.”
Senators plodded through days of debates and amendments leading up to Tuesday’s final vote.
Schumer’s office said 18 Republican amendments will have received votes as part of the bill’s approval. It also said the Senate has already held as many roll-call votes on amendments this year as it did in the last Congress, when the Senate was under Republican control.
While the bill enjoys bipartisan support, a core group of Republican senators has reservations about its cost.
One of the bill’s provisions would create a new directorate focusing on artificial intelligence and quantum science with the National Science Foundation.
The bill would allow up to $29 billion over five years for the new branch within the foundation with an additional $52 billion for its programs.
Rand Paul, the Republican senator for Kentucky, said Congress should cut, not increase, the foundation’s budget.
He called the agency “the king of wasteful spending.”
The agency funds about a quarter of all federally supported research conducted by U.S. colleges and universities.
“The bill is nothing more than a major government response that will make our country weaker, not stronger,” said Paul.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul is seen in the Capitol on Tuesday. He voted against the bill and described it as a waste of money
Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who represents Washington, praised the passing of the bill
But Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who represents Washington, noted that during President George W. Bush’s administration, greater federal investment in the natural sciences had been demanded to ensure US economic competitiveness.
“At the time I’m pretty sure we thought we were on a track where our competitor was, oh, I don’t know, maybe half a lap behind us.
“I’m pretty sure as the decade progresses, we’re looking over our shoulder and realizing that the competition is winning,” said Cantwell, the chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
The leading Republican on the committee also weighed in on supporting the bill.
“This is an opportunity for the United States to make a difference in the fight against the unfair competition we are seeing from communist China,” Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker said.
Senators have tried to strike a balance by drawing attention to China’s growing influence.
They want to prevent divisive anti-Asian rhetoric as hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
Other measures describe national security concerns and target money laundering or cyber-attacks by entities acting on behalf of the Chinese government.
There are also ‘buy America’ provisions for infrastructure projects in the US
Senators have added provisions reflecting changing attitudes to China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
One would avoid federal funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology as new investigations are underway into the origin of the virus and possible connections to the lab’s research. The city registered some of the first cases of coronavirus.
It’s unclear whether the measure will find support in the Democrat-led House, where the Science Committee is expected to consider that chamber’s version soon.
Ro Khanna, a Democrat member of the House representing California who has worked with Schumer for two years on legislation included in the bill, called it the largest investment in science and technology since the Apollo spaceflight program half a century ago.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to get a really good product on the president’s desk,” Schumer said.
Biden said he was looking forward to working with the House on the legislation, “and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as possible.”