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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 SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan 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 YoungTo meet the US innovation challenge, keep NSF's mission intact America can build back better through fair and open competition GOP senator supports 'diplomatic boycott' of 2022 Olympics in Beijing MORE (R-Ind.) and Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaMedical supplies arriving in India amid surge in COVID-19 infections Overnight Health Care: US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries | Biden speaks with Prime Minister Modi as COVID-19 surges in India US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHillicon Valley: New cyber budget request | Apple rolls out anticipated privacy update | And gets a new antitrust challenge Lawmakers call for increasing the budget of key federal cybersecurity agency With federal support, the US can recreate Silicon Valley success nationwide 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.”

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

President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom 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 PsakiBriahna Joy Gray: Biden campaign promises will struggle if Republicans win back Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Trump moves to his own blog as Facebook ban remains in place Biden on Cheney drama: 'I don't understand the Republicans' 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.”