Senate passes long-delayed China bill

The Senate passed sweeping legislation aimed at combating China's competitiveness on Tuesday, after Democrats agreed to punt the bill into June in the face of GOP slow-walking. 

The 68-32 vote hands a victory to Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights bill MORE (D-N.Y.), who made the bill a top priority and was able to get it past several last-minute snags in a weeks-long debate that appeared ready to derail it multiple times. 

The measure now goes to the House, where it faces uncertain prospects, as lawmakers there have offered their own measure. There’s talk of trying to drop part of it into an eventual infrastructure package.


But the measure marks a bipartisan win for the Senate ahead of what’s shaping up to be a summer of deeply partisan fights that will underscore the limits of what can get 60 votes, the level of support needed for most legislation to pass the 50-50 upper chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) pointed to it as an example of how the upper chamber can work, though Democrats bristled after a handful of GOP senators were able to delay a vote before the Memorial Day break. 

“One thing this legislation did demonstrate extremely well, however, was that the rules of the Senate don’t stand in the way of bipartisan legislating,” said McConnell, who supported the legislation. Other members of GOP leadership, including Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE (S.D.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoObama land management chief says Biden nominee should withdraw over tree-spiking incident Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (Wyo.), rejected it.

The Senate first voted to advance the bill over an initial procedural hurdle on May 17, meaning its consideration dragged on for roughly three weeks even though it eventually passed with strong bipartisan support.

Schumer described the vote as a necessary step to keep America in the game against countries such as China and a significant legislative accomplishment after months of behind-the-scenes talks. 

“When all is said and done, the bill will go down as one of the most important things this chamber has done in a very long time. ... We can concede the mantle of global leadership to our adversaries, or we can pave the way for another generation of American leadership. That is what this bill is about,” he said. 


The legislation faced a roller-coaster ride to the finish line as Republicans significantly delayed its passage amid frustration over getting additional amendment votes. 

“Sen. Schumer has tried to shoehorn this in. ... You can only push senators so far, and then they’ll push back,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Cornyn calls on Biden and Harris to visit southern border: 'Y'all come visit' Progressive groups launch .5M ad buy to pressure Sinema on filibuster MORE (R-Texas) told reporters late last month in the middle of the drama. “He’s threatened to keep us here this weekend.” 

Protests from a group of Republicans led by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Overnight Defense: Senate panel delays Iraq war powers repeal | Study IDs Fort Hood as least-safe base for female soldiers | Pentagon loosens some COVID-19 restrictions MORE (Wis.), who argued that the chamber was moving too quickly, drove the Senate into a rare Friday session on the brink of a holiday weekend, sparking frustration on both sides. 

"For the first time I've seen what the amendments are in the managers' package. I'm sorry. I don't know what these amendments are. ... So you can claim this is regular order. You can claim this is deliberative process, but it's far from it," Johnson said. 

In the end, leadership and the conservative group agreed to a deal allowing the Senate to vote in daylight hours on a bill to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — which failed to meet the 60-vote threshold — while locking in a path to pass the China legislation. 

It was a final averted setback after the bill had also appeared on life support until Schumer was able to salvage it by cutting a deal with Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoInflation concerns spark new political fights Yellen confident rising inflation won't be 'permanent' On The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits MORE (R-Idaho) to allow for a vote on his amendment related to trade and tariffs. The amendment, crafted with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHeat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West Biogen opens door to adjusting price of Alzheimer's drug amid outcry Overnight Health Care: White House acknowledges it will fall short of July 4 vaccine goal | Fauci warns of 'localized surges' in areas with low vaccination rates | Senate Finance leader releases principles for lowering prescription drug prices MORE (D-Ore.), was added into the bill in a 91-4 vote.

The measure builds off a Schumer proposal with Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Senate panel delays war authorization repeal after GOP push MORE (R-Ind.) to provide $120 billion for activities at the National Science Foundation, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It would also create a new directorate of technology and innovation at the National Science Foundation. 

In addition to the Young-Schumer bill at its core, the legislation provides $52 billion for semiconductor provisions, folds in a separate China-specific bill that passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 21-1 vote, and includes provisions cracking down on the reliance of Chinese companies and technology. 

Not everyone was satisfied with the outcome. 

Schumer faced pressure from his left flank, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' On The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling MORE (I-Vt.) railing against semiconductor funding and money that would go toward a company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosDisney heiress slams billionaires, generational wealth: 'An upside-down structure' Civil rights groups urge lawmakers to crack down on Amazon's 'dangerous' worker surveillance The tax code's Achilles' heel is surprisingly popular — and that's a problem for taxing the rich MORE

“I am sympathetic to the goal of this bill, but I am not sympathetic with the idea of simply laying out $52 billion of taxpayers' money with no strings attached,” said Sanders, who was the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote no.

And some Republicans still railed against the process, arguing it was badly negotiated on their side. 


Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Rising violent crime poses new challenge for White House MORE (R-Fla.) said that he would support a "real China bill," while Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) added that Republicans “have given away all our leverage” to Schumer. 

“Whoever was negotiating for us, I wouldn’t take them to buy a car with me,” he said. “They would offer the car salesman a bonus.” 

Even after the weeks of wrangling in the Senate, the bill doesn’t face a glide path to passing unchanged in the Democratic-controlled House. 

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaTech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda Public option fades with little outcry from progressives MORE (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the House version of the Endless Frontier Act, predicted that the bill would be incorporated with separate legislation from House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonCongress and DOT should ensure a data-driven transportation infrastructure A path forward for the future of American science and technology Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (D-Texas) to increase funding for the National Science Foundation and later reconciled in conference with the Senate.

"I expect that will take a bit, and then that'll pass, and once that passes, then I think we'll have a conference. And I'm hopeful in the next few months we get the bill to the president's desk," Khanna said.

"Look, this is a transformative bill," he added. "So I just think that it's normal that this would take a while."

Cristina Marcos contributed to this article, which was updated at 7:44 p.m.