Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Friday (May 28) that a vote on major technology investment legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. competitiveness against the Chinese Communist Party in several key areas will be delayed until June.
After two weeks of intensive bipartisan consultation and debate, and after several Republicans raised doubts and objections Friday to the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which plans to spend $250 billion to invest in basic and advanced U.S. technologies, Schumer announced he would temporarily put the process of advancing the bill on hold, making it The bill was not able to meet Schumer’s target deadline for completion of the legislation by the end of this week’s agenda.
The bill, formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act, was renamed the American Innovation and Competition Act by Schumer after the inclusion of several amendments.
In a letter to Senate Democrats Friday, Schumer criticized Republican obstructionism. “We are seeing the limits of bipartisanship and renewed Republican obstructionism,” Schumer said in the letter.
Schumer wrote, “Despite three months of the regular (drafting) process of the American Innovation and Competition Act, the inclusion of at least six committees and dozens of Republican-sponsored amendments, and 21 roll call and voice votes, Senate Republicans are trying to delay passage of this bill by two weeks, despite the devastating semiconductor shortage that American manufacturing is now experiencing. They are asking for help.”
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the Senate held two back-to-back days of nearly nonstop targeting of the bill by Schumer and Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) to debate and vote on amendments to the large investment bill. Schumer had hoped to complete the bill in time for next week’s week-long Memorial Day recess.
However, Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) of Wisconsin, objected to the bill on Thursday evening. Bipartisan negotiations continued until 3 a.m. Friday without a consensus.
Republicans critical of the bill objected on the grounds that the 700-page bill was too large and complicated with numerous amendments, but that lawmakers had not had sufficient time to understand its specifics.
“Who can understand that bill?” Johnson told the media, “We’re going to take as much time as we can so that we can fully consider this bill.”
Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana (R-LA), who is also opposed to the bill, issued a statement Thursday blaming the American Innovation and Competition Act for further skyrocketing the U.S. deficit by $535 billion over the next decade.
In a written statement, Kennedy said, “America doesn’t have the money to pay for the ‘Endless Spending Act,’ so this deficit spending means nothing: Senate Democrats are asking their colleagues to borrow money from the Chinese Communist Party to fund programs that will do little to help us deal with the Communist Party’s military defense and economic competition. “
However, Republicans and Democrats who expressed support for the bill advocated that the U.S. must invest heavily in order to improve the competitiveness of research, development and production in several important industries.
Todd Young, who sponsored the bill, said in a speech Thursday on the floor of the House. Young, who sponsored the bill, said in his floor speech Thursday that the bill is designed to “be a better version of ourselves” to meet the challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, emphasized that the bill was negotiated in a bipartisan manner and included several Republican amendments that addressed the concerns of various members.
“I actually think we shared ideas with everybody about why this bill is so important because we had a very public debate process,” Cantwell said.
In a fiercely partisan U.S. Congress, the desire to take a tough line on China is one of the few things that actually crosses party lines of consensus.
The American Innovation and Competition Act authorizes about $190 billion to strengthen U.S. technology in general, with another $54 billion earmarked to increase production of semiconductors, microchips and telecommunications equipment.
The bill also seeks to counter Beijing’s growing global influence through diplomacy, cooperation with allies and increased U.S. participation in international organizations.
On Thursday evening, in an attempt to move the bill forward, Senate Majority Leader Schumer reached a consensus with Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to include an amendment. The amendment is intended to retaliate against what they see as anti-competitive trade practices by China and to ban imports of products found to be produced using forced labor.
Before leaving Congress Friday, Schumer said he plans to push for another floor vote on the American Innovation and Competition Act on June 8. After passing the Senate, the Act must be passed by the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House and signed into law by President Biden. Both houses of Congress are currently controlled by Biden’s Democrats by a slight margin.