May 19, 2022

Democrats Renew Push for Industrial Policy Bill Aimed at China

“There are disagreements, legitimate disagreements,” Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, said in an interview. “How do we do this? How do we get it right? There doesn’t seem to be much disagreement over the core $52 billion appropriation for chips. There is disagreement around how we make investments in research and development in basic science.”

One major difference is that while the Senate bill invests heavily in specific fields of cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, the House bill places few stipulations on the new round of funding, other than to say that it should go toward fundamental research.

In a memo on the legislation, House aides wrote that their measure was “focusing on solutions first, not tech buzzwords.”

Some experts argue that approach lacks urgency. Stephen Ezell, the vice president for global innovation policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a policy group that receives funding from telecommunications and tech companies, called the House bill “not sufficient to enable the United States to win the advanced technology competition with China.” He argued that the focus on advanced technology in the Senate-passed bill would do more to increase American competitiveness.

In addition, as lawmakers debate how to counter Beijing’s rising influence, efforts to compromise on the foreign policy components of the legislation will most likely create tensions between the chambers and between Democrats and Republicans. In the Senate, for example, lawmakers included stricter requirements for when universities must report foreign funding to the Education Department.

Democrats in the House have resisted the Senate’s proposed foreign policy provisions, complaining that the chamber focused too narrowly on countering China rather than investing in domestic manufacturing. Much of the foreign policy legislation added by Democrats to the House bill is focused on climate change; the House measure would also authorize $225 million over five years to bolster the State Department’s military training and education programs in the Indo-Pacific region.

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