Senate punts on China bill amid GOP objections

“It is important that the public understand what is in this bill,” said Johnson on Friday. “If we’d only passed this yesterday, it would be yesterday’s news and we’d move on to the next spending boondoggle.”

Tackling China’s economic and geopolitical ambitions has left Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who earlier Thursday reached an agreement with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) on a bipartisan trade proposal that enabled the chamber to become a government filibuster to break, long time top priority underlying bill. But several Republicans were determined to hold back the final passage of the bill, lamenting the price and process by which changes were made.

The China move could be the last major bipartisan victory the Senate can claim this year as several negotiations on other important issues stall. And it is one that uniquely addresses the challenges of foreign policy, trade policy, scientific research and technology in one legislative package.

The bill known as the United States Innovation and Competition Act would be repealed More than $ 250 billion in new funding for research grants and semiconductor manufacturing where Beijing outperforms the US. The aim of the measure is to counter China’s economic rise by helping US companies to better compete with Chinese manufacturing and developing a strategy to deal with the myriad of national security threats from Beijing.

“Everyone knows that the federal government’s commitment to science and technology has been waning for decades,” said Schumer. “We have been complacent at the top of the global bunch and our position as a global business leader is wavering.”

The Senators spent three months drafting aspects of the law formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act in various committees, and Schumer promised a “robust” amendment process before it was finally passed.

Indeed, in the past two weeks, Schumer allowed more than a dozen amendments to receive roll-call votes in the Senate, most of which were drafted by Republicans – a significant departure from the chamber’s culture during the Trump administration when amendment votes were held Rarity.

“That way, the Senate should work where you unite and find a bipartisan approach,” said Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

Schumer’s GOP counterpart to years of effort, Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), Previously complimented the majority leader for handling the process, telling POLITICO that Schumer “kept his word”.

Republicans were still pushing for additional amendment votes Thursday morning, including the Crapo-led effort that was eventually adopted.

“I said to Senator Schumer:” If you want to find out more about this bill, we just need more amendments. “He said,” Well, you have received a lot of amendments. “And I said, ‘Not as many as we want,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top ally of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, ahead of Thursday’s vote on the amendments.

Schumer defended the trial, claiming that in his tenure as majority leader he had allowed more amendment votes than McConnell had in the last four years when the Kentucky Republican was the top Senate.

“Here on the floor we held the vigorous, bipartisan, open change process that the senators called for,” Schumer said. “Some of those voices were tough on our side. Before, we would have said no. We said yes, we will vote for them. “

Senators from both parties have long long agreed that the US should do more to curb China’s global influence and malicious behavior in various sectors, including intellectual property theft and human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China .

“The Chinese Communist Party plans to take advantage of our difficulties and divisions,” warned Young. “Your power and skills are growing.”

Several Republicans spoke out loudly against the bill despite the Crapo-Schumer deal, and some accused their party’s leadership of how the process was handled. They said the GOP leaders should have held on for additional amendment votes.

“We did a piss-off job negotiating this,” said Senator John Kennedy (R-La.). Schumer is “Walking around like a five-year-old in a Batman costume, he’s so excited.”

In order to gain Crapo’s support and break a filibuster, Schumer allowed a vote on his amendment to extend expired tariff exemption programs.

This amendment, written by Senate CFO Ron Wyden (D-Ore), would also reopen a process for companies to seek exemptions from tariffs imposed on China by former President Donald Trump. It passed 91-4.

In addition to voting on the trade change, Schumer also agreed that in return for the Republicans who are voting to be allowed to vote on other GOP priorities in order to move the bill forward.

An amendment by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) That would have increased control over research funds in the bill was rejected 55-40, unable to meet the required 60-vote threshold on concerns that doing so would delay the distribution of funds.

A proposal from Cornyn to strip the applicable wage requirements for projects funded by the $ 52 billion semiconductor manufacturing fund was planned to get a vote as well. The Democrats incorporated this provision into the committee process and held on in the midst of the GOP opposition.

The bill would also provide nearly $ 40 billion over five years to bolster the National Science Foundation and establish a new technology directorate tasked with confronting China.

Several cabinet-level agencies are also funded: $ 17 billion for research at the Department of Energy and its national laboratories; $ 17 billion for Department of Defense Research Agency; and $ 10 billion for the Department of Commerce to set up regional technology centers.

Not everyone has an ornament on the legislative Christmas tree. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Voted against advancing the bill on Thursday when he was unable to vote on its amendment to remove a $ 10 billion NASA lunar lander program from the bill.

Sanders and other critics say Blue Origin, a space start-up run by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, is likely to receive cash. But Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Who supported the measure and whose state is home to the company, said it was necessary to ensure competition on lunar landing contracts.

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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