American Innovation and Competition Act Legislation Delayed in U.S. Senate

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced Friday that the Senate will resume consideration on June 8 of a sweeping legislative plan aimed at improving the U.S. ability to compete with China’s technology. The Senate had tried to pass the $250 billion bill on Thursday, but it was delayed by Republicans, who argued that Schumer and Democrats had not allowed enough time to consider amendments.

The $250 billion American Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA) was championed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat. The bill authorizes about $190 billion to strengthen U.S. technology in general and another $54 billion specifically to increase production of semiconductors, microchips and telecommunications equipment. The legislation also seeks to counter Beijing’s growing global influence through diplomacy.

Senators reportedly spent three months working on different aspects of the bill in various Senate committees. Schumer has promised a “robust” amendment process before the bill is finally passed. The bill was a bipartisan effort, and many senators from both parties said they generally supported its contents. But delays led by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and other conservatives prompted Schumer to abandon efforts to complete a vote on the bill in the chamber this week, instead delaying final consideration until after the U.S. Memorial Day recess.

Johnson said Friday, “It’s important that the public understand what’s in this bill; if we had just passed this bill yesterday, it would have been yesterday’s news and we would have moved on to the next big spending item.” Because a tough approach to China is the near sole bipartisan consensus, lawmakers from both parties have also been accused of “adding private jobs” to the writing of the legislation, so that it is hundreds of pages longer than when it began, and few senators actually had time to read and understand its entire contents in such a short legislative process.

Schumer tried to pass the bill on Thursday, but it was delayed due to partisan political differences over how much time to consider amendments and which ones to vote on. After passage in the Senate, the American Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 must also pass the House before it can be sent to the White House for Biden to sign into law.