U.S. Sen. Todd Young's first Capitol Hill job was as a legislative aide to Sen. Richard Lugar, who was widely recognized for his willingness to seek bipartisan support on major issues, both foreign and domestic. Now in Lugar's longtime post as Indiana's senior senator, Young is channeling the late statesman in efforts to authorize $100 billion in spending on emerging technologies.
Young and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, are set to reintroduce the Endless Frontier Act, legislation to bolster lagging investment in research and development. It's encouraging to see an Indiana lawmaker taking the lead on an initiative critical to the nation's geopolitical and economic strength. We hope Young won't allow strident voices on either side to derail it.
In an interview this week with Washington Post Live, Young said China is taking advantage of political division in the U.S. to amplify its own message.
“We are divided politically and civically, and we're going through a rough patch in our public life,” he said. “But we've been here before. We don't want to fixate on that. We can demonstrate collectively through our elected officials and through the administration that we are unified when it comes to national security and defending our values.”
In response to a question from the Post's Jackie Alemany, Young said delays in reintroducing the Endless Frontier Act can be attributed to input received from colleagues seeking to add or amend provisions. Garnering bipartisan support requires that approach, he explained.
“You crowd in as many good ideas as you can,” Young said. “You push aside pride of authorship so that you end up with the best possible work product, and then, hopefully, you get 70, 75, or more bipartisan votes in the end. I think that's the way we can send the most powerful message to the Chinese Communist Party that we are, indeed, unified. That's why Sen. Schumer, I and other leaders on the Republican and Democratic side thought it was a good idea to hit pause so that others have an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to this process.”
Those are the kind of remarks we would have expected from Lugar, but Young's effort to contrast the bipartisan approach he is taking to how the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan was approved shows he's also mindful of Lugar's GOP primary defeat in 2012. He doesn't want to be painted as too bipartisan in the event he faces a challenge from the far right.
“It's not how it worked with respect to the $1.9 trillion package that we began this administration with,” he said. “It's not how it may work on infrastructure, broadly defined, but it's how we intend to make things work as it relates to confronting the Chinese Communist Party and ensuring that we are equipped with the best tools ... so that our diplomats have maximal leverage, and so that the American people, their power, their talents, their dynamism, their creativity can be harnessed in this whole-of-society effort ...”
Young can better make his reelection case with Hoosier voters with the compelling arguments he makes for the Endless Frontier Act.
“We are an information-driven, knowledge-driven economy,” he said. “Sweat doesn't pay what it used to, and the return on education and social capital are incredibly high. ... Automation has disrupted the lives and vocations of a lot of individuals, and urbanization has led to the depopulation of many of our geographies as people move into the cities where some of these larger enterprises are located.”
Young said the legislation, which includes $10 billion for investments in regional “tech hubs,” is intended to harness existing expertise. In Indiana, it could mean more investment in genomics, advanced manufacturing or autonomous vehicles, he said. It could lead to more venture capital flowing to Indiana.
From his work on Lugar's staff, Young should know how effective a lawmaker can be in reaching across the aisle. He should also know that Hoosiers – including GOP primary voters – will support that work when they recognize it's done in their best interest.