Lawmakers push for $100B+ investment in science and tech to compete with China

Jessica Smith
·Chief Political Correspondent
·4-min read

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) directed the Senate to develop a comprehensive package to counter the Chinese Communist Party earlier this year. This week, pieces of the effort started to take shape.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed the Strategic Competition Act on Wednesday, which boosts U.S. cooperation with allies, invests in the United States and aims to press Beijing on human rights abuses. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate also introduced a bill, the Endless Frontier Act, which is a key piece of Schumer’s broader efforts to help the U.S. compete with China and stay ahead of its growing economic power.

The push is one of the few issues with broad bipartisan support in Washington. Schumer introduced the Senate version of the bill with Sen. Todd Young (R., Ind.), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) introduced the bill in the House.

“I think people understand we have to re-industrialize America. We have to lead in technologies of the future,” said Khanna in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “They want America, not China or another country, to win when it comes to artificial intelligence, quantum computing, synthetic biology, clean technology, advanced manufacturing, some semiconductors — that's something that people across the political spectrum recognize.”

The Endless Frontier Act would authorize $100 billion over five years to invest in advanced technologies, education, research and development, workforce training and advanced manufacturing. Young told Yahoo Finance the United States is not keeping up with China in some high-tech areas, which could have serious consequences.

“The trend lines aren't pretty when you look at artificial intelligence, for example, it's clear that the Chinese Communist Party on account of their increasing sophistication...their theft of our intellectual property, and the amount of data that they're able to take from their own citizens and from citizens around the world to feed into these algorithms, will allow them to surpass surpass the United States in fairly short order,” said Young. “It's just sobering, how close the Chinese Communist Party is to surpassing the level of advancement of the United States in a number of these different technology areas.”

"There are areas of EVs, of solar and wind where China has just poured so much money that they have gotten ahead," said Khanna. "China should be more dependent on American technology than we are on anyone else's." 

U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) arrives to the Senate Chamber for the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former President Trump in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) arrives to the Senate Chamber on February 13, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

The bill would also authorize $10 billion for the Commerce Department to establish at least 10 regional tech hubs throughout the country. The hubs would receive funding to help communities become centers for research, development, entrepreneurship and manufacturing.

"[The hubs] will serve as a training ground for the future generation of workers — and then it will also attract enormous amounts of venture capital in the future," said Young. 

“This marks the biggest investment in science and technology since the Apollo project. It is a tremendous commitment to our innovation future,” said Khanna. “We have to do it in a way that's inclusive, not just for the MITs or Stanford in my district, but for the American Heartland for the South, for Black and brown communities — let's unleash the innovative spirit of America across this country.”

The legislation would also establish a supply chain resiliency and crisis response program. The Senate Commerce Committee is set to mark up the bill next week. Young told Yahoo Finance Congress has no choice but to act. 

“There's just no alternative to acting,” said Young. "The risk to waiting any longer to act and boldly will just lead to us being surpassed by the Chinese Communist Party — or lead to the gap between the United States and in China and some of these areas becoming much closer than we would like." 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement this week saying the administration will work with Congress to "further shape" the bill to "renew America's global leadership in science and technology."  

Jessica Smith is chief political correspondent for Yahoo Finance, based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.

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