Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech

Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Pelosi, Schumer vow climate action: 'It is an imperative' MORE (D-N.Y.) led dozens of bipartisan House and Senate members on Wednesday in rolling out legislation that would invest more than $100 billion in emerging technologies in an effort to put the U.S. on a level playing field with China. 

The Endless Frontiers Act, first introduced last year, would establish a Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation, which would use $100 billion in federal funds over five years to research emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors. 

The legislation would also appropriate $10 billion to the Department of Commerce to help support regional technology innovation throughout the nation, while a further $2.4 billion would go toward expanding and enhancing U.S. manufacturing capabilities in key technologies. 

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A Supply Chain Resiliency and Crisis Response Program would be established to help the U.S. strengthen critical supply chains for emerging technologies around the world. 

The bill is primarily co-sponsored by Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (R-Ind.) and Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel Ron Johnson: 'I may not be the best candidate' for 2022 midterms Biden, Democrats' lack of urgency towards China poses significant threat to America's security MORE (R-Wis.), with almost two dozen other bipartisan House and Senate members also signing on as sponsors. 

Schumer previewed the bill in February prior to a White House summit to address semiconductor, or chip, shortages. Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that the legislation would “address several dangerous weak spots in America’s economic and national security that threaten our global technological leadership.” 

“This legislation will enhance American competitiveness with China and other countries by investing in American innovation, building up regions across the country to lead in the innovation economy, creating good-paying American manufacturing and high-tech jobs, and strengthening America’s research, development, and manufacturing capabilities,” Schumer said. 

He noted that the Senate would consider the bill “in the coming weeks” alongside other pieces of legislation meant to ensure “that the U.S. Government’s hand at home and abroad is as strong as possible as we compete with China on all fronts.”

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Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly concerned about competition from China in the emerging technologies field, with the nation ranked among the top national security threats to the U.S. 

The 2021 Worldwide Threats Assessment released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence earlier this month assessed that the Chinese Communist Party was using technology and innovation to undercut the U.S. and other Western nations and to compete globally. 

“We face a pivotal time in history,” Young said in a separate statement. “Right now, the Chinese Communist Party is emphasizing to the world that the United States is a divided nation. This is a rare opportunity to show the authoritarians in Beijing, and the rest of the world, that when it comes to our national security, and most importantly our China policy, we are united." 

Khanna said separately that “the era of endless wars is coming to a close,” stressing that “we must win the technology race," while Gallagher emphasized that American superiority in the fields of science and technology was “at risk.”

“The Chinese Communist Party has used decades of intellectual property theft and industrial espionage to close this technological-gap in a way that threatens not only our economic security, but also our way of life,” Gallagher said. “Just as we did at the outset of the Cold War, we have to substantially increase federal investment in technologies essential for our national survival.”

The bill was introduced amid an ongoing chip shortage that has brought certain sectors, such as the automobile industry, to a standstill. 

President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE signed an executive order in February aimed at strengthening the supply chains of chips and other critical resources, and his administration is reviewing how the U.S. will handle key Chinese technology companies. 

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiWhy in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch MORE said in a statement Wednesday that the administration welcomed the legislation, describing it as “one more encouraging sign of the bipartisan support for investing in America’s competitiveness.”

“The President shares the co-sponsors’ commitment to making a bold investment in American innovation—including large increases in funding at the National Science Foundation to support both R&D and commercialization, and new funding to support regional economic development so what is discovered in America can be made in America,” Psaki said. 

“The President welcomes the bill’s focus on strengthening American supply chains – an issue he has taken action on and championed,” she added. “We look forward to working with Congress to further shape this legislation to renew America’s global leadership in science and technology and to make sure we develop and manufacture the technologies of the future.”