The Senate is set to pass a $ 195 billion bill to increase competitiveness with China

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday was on the verge of passing comprehensive legislation to accelerate research and development in scientific innovation, advancing what would be the government’s first significant foray into industrial policy in decades to increase competitiveness against China .

Inspired by increasing apprehensions among members of both sides that the United States is losing its edge against China and other authoritarian governments that have invested heavily in developing cutting-edge technologies, the measure will be almost $ 195 billion In research in many fields including manufacturing and the semiconductor industry.

Extensive support for the measure reflects a bipartisan sense of urgency to act between one Epidemic that has exposed Beijing’s chokehold On important supply chains including global Semiconductor shortage It has shut down American automobile factories and slowed down the delivery of consumer electronics.

New York senator Chuck Schumer, majority leader and author of the bill, said, “If we don’t advance our game right now, we’ll fall behind the rest of the world.” “That’s what this law is all about. Fixing the ship. Investing in science and technology so that we can outrun, outrank and outrank the world in future industries, some of which we know and some of which We do not know anything. “

The measure, the product of a collaboration between Mr. Schumer and Senator Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, came together as a series of political changes, a rare moment of consensus has arisen over the issue.

Mr. Schumer, one of the Democratic Party’s most staunch Chinese hardliners for decades, was personally determined to use his new position as majority leader to advance through legislation to counter Beijing . And a growing number of Republicans, former President Donald J. Under Trump’s leadership, his party’s conservatism against government interference in the economy has been set aside and has adopted the idea of ​​aggressive measures to help American companies compete with an emerging rival.

The law will boost the struggling semiconductor industry by providing an emergency injection of funds for a $ 52 billion subsidy program sinking hundreds of billions into American scientific research and development pipelines, new grants and agreements between private companies and research universities to encourage Will encourage Success in new technology.

Still, it was unclear whether the bill – whose popularity made it a magnet for the pet preferences of industry lobbyists and lawmakers – could meet its ambitious goals. A frenzied round of bargains weakened the law, reducing the amount of funding for a focused center for research and development in emerging technologies. $ 29 billion From $ 100 billion. The MPs instead transferred that funding to laboratories operated by the Department of Energy rather than the National Science Foundation’s traditional mission of basic research, as well as new technology initiatives.

The measure was also weighed down by narrow projects put together in a bid to gain wider support, including a new round of funding for NASA that is likely to benefit Jeff Bezos’ space venture, Shark Wings Restrictions on sales and a mandate for it to label the country of origin for king crab. At around 11 a.m. Wednesday night, with almost no debate, the Senate added a clause that would double the budget of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon research agency.

Hours before the law was passed, senators were still drafting key components, such as a major trade measure that would reauthorize a lapsed provision that would allow temporary suspension of tariffs on specific products imported into the United States is. It would direct the United States Trade Representative to negotiate agreements on forced labor and important minerals.

Mr Young, who made no secret of his frustration with some changes to the measure at a recent hearing, said in an interview on Thursday that the law was still “a significant increase in funding that we can use for applied research.” will see. “

“We will be able to act as a force multiplier in our efforts to counter China’s deadly effects and activities,” he said.

Nevertheless, the law was worsened by partisan clashes at the last minute after Republicans feared they would not have another opportunity to pass bills related to China and what they considered an extremely fast draft process. , Had demanded that Democrats include more of their proposal

In a closed door on Wednesday, Republicans tried to convince their allies to delay the passage of the bill. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana argued that the process should be slowed down and take a taunt on Mr. Schumer: Majority leaders were moving so fast as if he was “like a 5-year-old kid in Batman costume on Halloween Were running, ”Mr. Kennedy said, according to two people familiar with his remarks.

Democrats had allowed votes on more than a dozen Republican amendments, but the threat of one Pirate The final round of bargaining took place behind closed doors to block the law, as leaders extended the 15-minute procedural vote to four hours.

Strong Republican support for the bill – especially around the decision to send $ 52 billion to chipmakers, funding a program created by Congress last year – was a paradigm shift in the party, with Congress ascending China increasingly into federal The intervention supported. American Manufacturing.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida took to the Senate floor before the vote and praised the results as “a partnership of government and business to resolve the immediate crisis of national concern” during the epidemic citing the rapid development of vaccines Was born.

“When it comes to research development technology, it is probably the biggest requirement before us,” he said. “The 21st century is being defined by this competition between China and the United States, and it is a competition that we cannot win until we go ahead and fight it.”

Mr. Rubio on Thursday tried to add tougher counter-measures to the law, warning that it would be pointless to spend billions of dollars on research “if we are going to allow the Chinese to steal it.” But that measure failed to garner the 60 votes needed to be added to the bill.

To connect manufacturing centers and research universities across the United States, the law will allocate $ 10 billion to build regional technology centers that aim to promote public-private partnerships and support incoming researchers and other workers.

“America’s technology-based economy needs all kinds of skilled professionals, and the EFA will make sure we have them,” the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a group that advocated the law, said in a statement , For the Endless Frontier Act using the abbreviation

The bill also provides a foreign policy road map for future engagement with China. It calls on the Biden administration to ban those responsible. Forced labor practices In and around Xinjiang, as well as systemic rape campaigns and Forced sterilization Crimes by the Chinese government against Uygar minorities in the region.

That law, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, includes measures to combat intellectual property infringement and calls for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Emily Cochran And Nicholas Fandos Reporting.

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