House passes bills to boost science competitiveness with China
The House passed legislation on Monday that would boost scientific research in an effort to make the U.S. more competitive with China.
Lawmakers handily passed two bills on a bipartisan basis to increase funding for the National Science Foundation and establish a new directorate for science and engineering to expand research opportunities as well as authorize research funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
“We must significantly boost funding for science. For years, we have allowed millions of dollars of excellent research go unfunded,” said House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas). “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history and we need to be more focused on the role of science in our society.”
The first bill, called the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, passed 345-67, while the second measure, titled the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act, passed 351-68.
They would increase funding for the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy’s Office of Science by about 7 percent annually.
Aside from the funding hike, the measures would direct the agencies to boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) education and professional development to help with recruitment in those fields.
Republicans also added a provision in committee to ban grant applicants from participating in talent programs associated with foreign governments of concern such as the Thousand Talents program, which is tied to the Chinese government.
“It is critical that we strike the correct balance between keeping our research enterprise open but also from protecting it from adversaries who seek to take advantage of our open system,” said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.).
The votes come after the Senate passed a mammoth package earlier this month to provide funding for the National Science Foundation, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The Senate legislation also includes provisions to increase diplomatic pressure on China, such as mandating a diplomatic boycott at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Rather than take up the Senate-passed bill and amend it, the House is instead proceeding with multiple individual bills that will likely be reconciled later with the upper chamber.
Aside from the two bills passed on Monday, which originated out of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, separate legislation out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is also in the works.
That bill, authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), would, among other provisions, provide temporary protected or refugee status to people in Hong Kong and Uyghurs facing human rights violations by the Chinese government and invest in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines to promote U.S. “vaccine diplomacy” to counter Chinese vaccines that appear to be less effective than the ones developed in the U.S.