Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is pressing ahead with a bill to counter China in the technology realm while making changes to the bipartisan legislation, as some Republicans are raising concerns that the bill must not be rushed.
The New York Democrat announced Tuesday that the legislation was getting a new name, the “U.S. Innovation and Competition Act,” and he was readying a substitute amendment that pulls in components of other proposed bills.
The legislation would authorize spending billions of taxpayer dollars on science and technology research to compete with China, and vigorous debate has ensued about which agencies should collect the money and how much they should get.
“If we don’t lead in science and innovation, millions of good-paying jobs that will be available to this generation and the next one will go poof, gone,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor. “We have no choice. We have always led and now we have fallen behind. Other countries are investing more than we are. They’re not as good at it as we are, they’re not as innovative as we are, but if they put in the dollars and we don’t, woe is us.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed worry that the bill could be rushed but said the aspiration of a secure and innovative America to outcompete China is “something that all hundred senators want.”
“A number of colleagues have assembled a proposal that touches on a long list of subjects, everything from funding universities to regional economic development to Indo-Pacific geopolitics to artificial intelligence to cybersecurity and beyond. Legislation this broad needs a thorough, robust and bipartisan floor process, including a healthy series of amendment votes,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Mr. McConnell cited Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican and the ranking Commerce Committee member, as having said that the current draft is “not ready for primetime yet and deserves a robust process here on the floor.”
Mr. McConnell said he understood that Mr. Schumer had assured others there would not be an effort to “close debate on amendments prematurely.”
A significant component of the legislation — formerly called the Endless Frontier Act — advanced through committee after six hours of debate and scores of amendments dealing with things ranging from the sale of shark fins to how to allocate billions of taxpayer dollars.
The initial Endless Frontier Act had seven original Democratic co-sponsors led by Mr. Schumer and seven Republican co-sponsors, and the Senate voted Monday to proceed with the legislation.
Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida have complained that the National Science Foundation is ill-equipped to protect the billions that the original legislation proposed to send its way.
They cited concerns that the federal agency would not adequately protect the taxpayer dollars from landing in the pockets of scientists allegedly compromised by China.