WASHINGTON -- The Senate overwhelmingly passed an expansive bill to invest almost $250 billion in bolstering U.S. manufacturing and technology to meet the economic and strategic challenge from China.
The 68-32 vote on the legislation Tuesday was a rare spot of bipartisanship in an otherwise polarized Senate and a clear indicator of the concern in both political parties that the U.S. risks falling behind its biggest global competitor.
“When all is said and done, the bill will go down as one of the most important things this chamber has done in a very long time,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “Whoever wins the race to the technologies of the future is going to be the global economic leader -- with profound consequences for foreign policy and national security as well.”
The legislation authorizes $190 billion in spending, much of it aimed at increased R&D at universities and other institutions.
It also includes $52 billion in emergency outlays to help domestic manufacturers of semiconductors expand production, a provision that gained new urgency with a global shortage of chips that has idled U.S. automotive plants and disrupted the production of consumer electronics.
Despite the broad support in the Senate and an endorsement from President Joe Biden’s administration, the bill’s fate in the House is uncertain. House leaders haven’t publicly committed to acting on the Senate bill or set out a course of action beyond the House Science Committee considering its own plan for revamping the National Science Foundation.
However, Schumer said he’s talked with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson about the approach taken in the lower chamber. He said the Senate bill, after various amendments, is now closer to what the House is working on.
“It’s in President Biden’s agenda and I’m quite certain that we will get a really good product on the president’s desk,” Schumer said.
Schumer and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., were joint sponsors of the base of the legislation, focused on escalating federal support for research into innovations in technology and manufacturing. In a little more than a month since its introduction, lawmakers have debated a slew of amendments, as many sought to attach their own China-focused measures.