The Senate on Tuesday passed one of the largest industrial bills in U.S. history in a bipartisan effort to ensure the U.S. remains competitive with China as one of the globe’s technological powerhouses. The bill, which passed the chamber 68-32, commits roughly $250 billion in funding for scientific research, subsidies for chipmakers and robot makers, and an overhaul of the National Science Foundation.
The scope of the bill, the final product of at least six Senate committees and almost all members of the chamber, reflects the many fronts in the U.S.-China rivalry. It also likely represents one of the last major bipartisan initiatives of 2021, proof that U.S. lawmakers are broadly in favor of legislation that works to counter Beijing’s economic and military expansion. Failure to expand the nation’s semiconductor production, or reroute rare earths supply chains, advocates say, could leave the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage in the years ahead.
The largest part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is a proposal previously known as “Endless Frontier,” written by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind. Endless Frontier overhauls the National Science Foundation, appropriate tens of billions for the NSF between fiscal 2022 and 2026, and establish a Directorate for Technology and Innovation.
The bill would also fund a grant program managed by the Commerce Department that would match financial incentives offered by states and local governments to chipmakers who improve upon or build new factories. Specifically, the bill provides $52 billion to fund the semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing initiatives. The Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group that represents a swath of the nation’s chipmakers, was quick to applaud the Senate’s effort.