The US Senate voted Monday to greenlight a multibillion-dollar bill aimed at jumpstarting high-tech research and manufacturing, countering China’s growing influence and easing a global shortage of computer chips.
The legislation is the upper chamber’s version of the House’s America Competes bill that passed in February. Lawmakers are expected to start negotiations between both parties in the House and Senate to marry the different texts.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the long-stalled legislation would be “one of the most important accomplishments of the 117th Congress.”
“This bill, for all its provisions, is really about two big things: creating more American jobs and lowering costs for American families,” he told senators.
“It will help lower costs by making it easier to produce critical technologies here at home, like semiconductors. It will create more jobs by bringing manufacturing back from overseas.”
Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been discussing the contours for launching formal negotiations on the legislation as early as April, and a floor vote in May or June.
The House and Senate versions both provide for President Joe Biden’s aim of investing US$52 billion in domestic research and production, marking a win he could trumpet ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The 2,900-page House version passed mostly along party lines with Republicans arguing it wasn’t tough enough on China and that it was overly focused on unrelated issues like climate change and social inequality.
That means it is destined for a conference committee, where Senate Republicans will have all the leverage since 10 of them will be needed to get the final text back through the upper chamber.
Schumer said however the legislation would power a new generation of American innovation.
“Whichever nation is the first to master the technologies of tomorrow will reshape the world in its image,” he said on the Senate floor.
“America cannot afford to come in second place when it comes to technologies like 5G, AI, quantum computing, semiconductors, bioengineering and so much more.”
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