The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday afternoon (May 12) passed a bill aimed at strengthening basic and advanced technology research and development to help Washington counter competition with Beijing in related areas. At the same time, new amendments to the bill would also address the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party’s information warfare.
After nearly six hours of deliberation, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 24 to 4 to advance the bill, which was approved by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Republican U.S. Senator Todd Young (D-NY). The Endless Frontier Act, a cross-party effort by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Republican U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), will be sent to the floor for a vote. The bill will be sent to the floor for a vote. A similar bill is being advanced in the House of Representatives at the same time.
The Endless Frontier Act would authorize $100 billion over five years to invest in basic and advanced research, commercialization, education and training programs in key technologies, including artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology and advanced energy.
The bill would also authorize $10 billion in appropriations, designate at least 10 regional technology centers, and establish a supply chain crisis response program to address issues like the shortage of semiconductor chips affecting automobile production. In addition, the bill would focus on research and development in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotic learning, quantum computing, biotechnology, cybersecurity and advanced energy.
Photo: Republican U.S. Sen. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)
“This bill is our opportunity to improve our nation’s ability to innovate and develop new technologies to defeat the Chinese Communist Party,” said Young, a Republican U.S. senator from Indiana, in a written statement following the bill’s passage. He said the Endless Frontier Act is an important opportunity to strengthen U.S. geopolitical power.
“We are embarking on the most significant investment in American research and manufacturing for generations to come, and in keeping America ahead of the curve for decades to come,” Senate Majority Leader Schumer said in a statement Wednesday, adding that “this bill will allow the United States to beat countries like China, create more good-paying jobs in America and help improve the U.S. economy and national security.”
The Endless Frontier Act, which has bipartisan support in Congress, incorporated more than 100 amendments during Wednesday’s markup process. Additional amendments are expected to be debated after the bill goes to the floor of the House.
The proposed Endless Frontier Act would expand the National Science Foundation (NSF) and create a “Technology and Innovation Steering Committee” within the agency. However, Wednesday’s markup included an amendment that would have shifted some of the funds originally appropriated to NSF in the bill to other areas.
Senator Young, who drafted the amendment, expressed disappointment, saying it would weaken the role of the newly created committee. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the final bill meets expectations for bold investments in research, education, technology transfer and the core strengths of the U.S. innovation ecosystem,” Young said.
“The country that wins the race in critical technologies will be the superpower of the future, and we can’t afford to lose that race.”
Bill Adds Amendments to Address Communist China’s Information Warfare
In addition to strengthening and investing in U.S. technology research and development, the amendments considered for passage Wednesday include several provisions attempting to guard against Chinese infiltration and influence on U.S. society in the area of information warfare.
Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
The Committee adopted an amendment offered by Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) of Texas to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from exploiting loopholes in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propagate propaganda to the American people through media platforms affiliated with Chinese state-owned media. The amendment directly names Phoenix TV as an example.
The amendment cites a provision in the Communications Act that “prohibits foreign governments from holding broadcast station licenses, including the transfer of licenses or permits to entities influenced by the Communist Party of China or the People’s Republic of China.
Sen. Cruz, who sponsored the amendment, said it makes no sense to allow America’s biggest geopolitical threat to spend billions of dollars each year to repeat official Communist Party propaganda on U.S. television broadcasts and to hide the truth that its regime does not want to be known.
“Right now, media outlets affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party are openly trying to buy radio stations inside and outside the United States with the goal of controlling what Americans see and hear and, ultimately, what the American people think,” Cruz said in a statement, adding, “This amendment is an important step in disrupting the Communist Party’s attempts to wage information warfare. a major step forward and part of the U.S. effort to rid itself of Chinese Communist propaganda and counter the Chinese Communist threat.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 amendments passed Wednesday would prohibit the removal of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from the Commerce Department’s list of entities unless the Commerce Department can prove that Huawei no longer poses a threat to the infrastructure of the United States and its allies.
Other amendments include strengthening U.S. cooperation with Israel, Taiwan and the Five Eyes alliance countries, sharply limiting the U.S. government’s sharing of information with China, including nuclear technology, addressing the threat posed by Chinese Communist espionage to U.S. college campuses and academic circles, and reducing U.S. dependence on key mineral resources such as rare earths from China.
Competition with the CCP in the 21st century awakens bipartisanship
A full-scale competition with the Chinese Communist Party has apparently become a bipartisan issue for cooperation in Congress, leading to a rare convergence of goals in a divided Washington.
Republican U.S. Sen. Young told Voice of America that the bill is expected to consider amendments and proposals from other committee members next, but he is confident it will eventually garner cross-party support.
“We’ve got seven Republicans, seven Democrats as cosponsors, which is a pretty good momentum,” Sen. Young told Voice of America, “and those members are pretty core anchors, which gives me a lot of encouragement and confidence.”
“We don’t want, we absolutely don’t want, whether it’s Democrats, Republicans; liberals, conservatives, we don’t want a future where the Chinese Communist Party dominates the global order, dominates the global use of 5G, artificial intelligence or quantum computing,” Senate Majority Leader Schumer said in his floor speech Wednesday.
Bill faces resistance from Republicans
However, despite a broad bipartisan consensus in Congress to increase investment in U.S. innovation research and development and production of key technologies and supply chains, some Republicans are still concerned that the bill’s plan for big investments lacks strict rules and regulations and fears the risk that the results of research and development may go overseas or even into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party after massive spending.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Republican U.S. Senator
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday (May 11), Sen. Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he supports the motivation and direction of the Endless Frontier Act, but that the bill must strictly prevent U.S. investment dollars from falling into any enterprise with ties to the Chinese Communist military.
“Right now, the bill would make the National Science Foundation the lead agency for that $100 billion in government investment, but the problem is that that very same agency has time and time again allowed our funded research to be stolen from professors and graduate students working for China,” Rubio said.
Rubio continued, “We have to remember that we’re not in strategic competition with Chinese companies; we’re in strategic competition with the world’s largest and second wealthiest country.”
Several House Republicans have criticized the Endless Frontier Act as costly but ineffective in protecting U.S. national interests against the Chinese Communist Party, according to the U.S. media outlet The Hill.
The House conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) is the largest Republican caucus in Congress, with 154 members. The committee tweeted Tuesday in direct opposition to the bill, going so far as to say it would only benefit some large corporate giants and should be renamed the “Endless Pork Act.
“We must respond to the aggressive behavior of the Chinese Communist Party with a meaningful bill, and the Endless Frontier Act does not meet that standard,” the Republican Study Committee tweeted ahead of the bill’s consideration.
Senate Democratic leaders push for final vote this month
Senate Majority Leader Schumer said through a statement Wednesday that he plans to push the bill to a vote this month.
“I plan to move the full House to consider and complete this important legislation by the end of this month and expect the bill to receive bipartisan support,” Schumer said.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also previously told VOA that he would not rule out the possibility that Schumer could tie the Endless Frontier Act and the Strategic Competition Act, which the Foreign Affairs Committee passed last month, together for a simultaneous vote.
He also told the Voice of America that he expects the two bills to be voted on in May. According to the Senate calendar, the May session runs through May 28.