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Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech

Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech
© Greg Nash

The Senate Commerce Committee voted Wednesday to approve legislation that would invest billions in science and emerging technologies in an effort to compete with China.

The bipartisan Endless Frontiers Act was approved by the committee by a vote of 24-4, with four Republican members voting against the bill.

The committee approved the legislation with significantly less funds included for the founding of a Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation, with much of the originally proposed $100 billion being funneled to other research efforts.

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The bill overall is meant to give a boost to U.S. research and emerging technologies to compete on the global stage, such as in fields including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors.

The bill was approved after several hours of debate that saw over 100 amendments proposed by senators, including one measure proposed by Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersAbsences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee Senate Democrats investing M in Defend the Vote initiative Senior Biden cyber nominees sail through Senate hearing MORE (D-Mich.) the committee approved that would provide $2 billion to address the semiconductor shortage, according to the Detroit News.

The legislation was originally introduced last year during the previous Congress, but failed to get a vote. Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThis week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (R-Ind.), along with Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKhanna outlines how progressives will push in climate infrastructure proposal Fresh hurdles push timeline on getting China bill to Biden New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherBiden budget includes 0M to help agencies recover from SolarWinds hack in proposed budget GOP lawmaker calls for Wuhan probe to 'prevent the next pandemic' Lawmakers introduce bill to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks MORE (R-Wis.), reintroduced the legislation in April.

Young voted in favor of the legislation, but noted he did so “with great reservations for how this process has played out, but hope for the future that we can resolve things in a bipartisan constructive way.”

Schumer said in a statement that with the committee’s approval of the bill, “we are on the road to making one of the most significant investments in American innovation and manufacturing in generations and keep America number one for decades to come.”

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“This legislation will allow the United States to out-compete countries like China, create more good-paying American jobs and help improve our country’s economic and national security,” Schumer said. “It is my intention for the full Senate to consider and finish this important legislation before the end of the month, where we expect strong bipartisan support.”

The House Science Committee’s subcommittee on research and technology is due to debate the National Science Foundation Reauthorization bill on Thursday, which will include the Endless Frontiers Act as an amendment.

Khanna said in a statement following the hours-long markup that he was “optimistic the House Science Subcommittee will incorporate much of our Endless Frontier Act into their markup."

He noted he was working to ensure “this gets fully funded at our initial $100 billion amount.”

Khanna told The Hill on Tuesday prior to the committee vote that the large number of amendments showed that despite the debate over the legislation, it was likely to pass both chambers.

“I really think we are at the moment now that this can become a reality, we have a concrete strategy,” Khanna said. “It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my five years of Congress, because to see transformative legislation have a chance to be signed by the president, and redirect science policy in a way that will put us on track to be competitive for the next 50 years, I am just really excited about where we’re at.”

Khanna said he hoped the legislation would move quickly in the House if it is approved in committee.

“I’m confident that leadership will put this on the floor,” Khanna said.