A bill passed this week in the U.S. Senate to bolster technology research to compete with China is a rarity.
The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act – an updated version of the Endless Frontier Act championed by Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young – passed the chamber Tuesday on a 68-32 vote. The bipartisan measure drew support from Young, conservative senators such as Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri, liberals including Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York – a man often vilified by those on the right – authored the bill with Young, and each lawmaker who voted to send it to the House clearly saw an opportunity to bypass partisanship and move forward to confront important issues facing the country.
What a concept. Lawmakers should try compromising more often, and kudos to Young for leading the effort and the others for doing the seemingly impossible: working together and across party lines to pass meaningful legislation.
“Let history record that, at this moment, we stood united,” Young said in a statement after the vote. “That by confronting the challenges of today, we built a brighter tomorrow for Americans.”
The Innovation and Competition Act would earmark $250 billion for technology research and the semiconductor industry to compete with China in areas in which that country has invested heavily. As the Washington Post recently noted, that comes after technology industry leaders have warned China is poised to outpace the U.S. in research in areas such as artificial intelligence.
Among the provisions in the bill:
• Investing $50 billion in chip manufacturing
• Creation of a Directorate of Technology and Innovation to focus on paying for research on artificial intelligence and quantum science
• $10 billion for regional tech hubs, which would spread research around the country
• Increased funding for space exploration, an area also of interest to China
President Joe Biden praised the measure, calling it a “way to lay the foundation of the next generation of American jobs and American leadership and manufacturing and technology.”
“We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off,” he said in a statement.
But there are some – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, among them – who are content to remain stationary in the morass of partisanship while others enter the race.
Braun has criticized the level of spending in the bill while saying he agrees that the U.S. must remain competitive on the global technology stage. Banks and his Republican Study Committee, the largest GOP caucus in Congress, also have panned the measure.
An internal memo from the committee chaired by Banks that was obtained by The Hill in May said the Endless Frontier Act should do more to take China to task for stealing intellectual property and industrial espionage.
That's a fair critique, but eschewing compromise completely is unwise – the legislative equivalent to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
We're glad Young and his colleagues didn't do that. We hope to see more bipartisan work among lawmakers in the House, where the bill's future is yet unclear.
That is a frontier that should be explored.