House Passes Bills to Bolster Scientific Research, Breaking With Senate
WASHINGTON — The House on Monday passed two bipartisan bills aimed at bolstering research development programs in the United States, setting up a battle with the Senate over how best to invest in scientific innovation to strengthen American competitiveness.
The bills are the House’s answer to the sprawling Endless Frontier Act that the Senate overwhelmingly passed this month, which would sink unprecedented federal investments into a slew of emerging technologies in a bid to compete with China. But lawmakers who drafted the House measures took a different approach, calling for a doubling of funding over the next five years for traditional research initiatives at the National Science Foundation a 7 percent increase for the Energy Department’s Office of Science.
The contrast reflected concerns among House lawmakers that the Senate bill placed an outsize overly prescriptive focus on developing nascent technologies on replicating Beijing’s aggressive moves to gain industrial dominance. Instead, the lawmakers argued, the United States should pour more resources into its own proven research development abilities.
“If we are to remain the world leader in science technology, we need to act now,” said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democrat of Texas the chairwoman of the Science Committee. “But we shouldn’t act rashly. Instead of trying to copy the efforts of our emerging competitors, we should be doubling down on the proven innovation engines we have at the National Science Foundation the Department of Energy.”
Lawmakers their aides must try to reconcile the Senate-passed legislation with the two bills passed on Monday, prompting a major debate on Capitol Hill about industrial policy how to strengthen American competitiveness, a goal with broad bipartisan support.
The two bills passed 345-67 351-68.
“One of the core disagreements or tensions between the House the Senate version is that the Senate version is really focused on China,” said Robert D. Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology Innovation Foundation. Ms. Johnson’s bills, he added, prioritize “more social policy issues,” including science, technology, engineering mathematics education climate change.
The House bills omit a number of provisions that are centerpieces of the Senate legislation, including $52 billion in emergency subsidies for semiconductor makers a slew of trade provisions. Instead of creating regional technology hubs across the country, as the Senate measure would do, one of the House bills would establish a designated directorate for “science engineering solutions” in the National Science Foundation.
While singling out several emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence advanced computing, lawmakers on the House Science Committee have mostly focused on research funding a holistic approach to scientific innovation.
“History teaches that problem-solving can itself drive the innovation that in turn spawns new industries achieves competitive advantage,” Ms. Johnson wrote.
William A. Reinsch, the Scholl chair in international business at the Center for Strategic International Studies, said with sections on public health challenges the STEM work force, the House had taken “a broader definition of how to get our innovation capabilities up running.”
The Senate legislation, passed by a vote of 68-32, was steered through the chamber by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York the majority leader, a longtime China hawk who has been eager to enact what would be the most significant government intervention in industrial policy in decades. It was powered in large part by bipartisan concern about China’s chokehold on global supply chains, which has grown particularly acute amid shortages brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. President Biden applauded its passage said that he hoped to sign it into law “as soon as possible.”
It would allocate hundreds of billions more into scientific research development pipelines in the United States, create grants, foster agreements between private companies research universities to encourage breakthroughs in new technology.
As the legislation moved through the chamber, echoing similar concerns from lawmakers on the House Science Committee, senators shifted much of the $100 billion that had been slated for a research development hub for emerging technologies at the National Science Foundation to basic research, as well as laboratories run by the Energy Department. The amount for cutting-edge research was reduced to $29 billion, with the rest of the original funds funneled toward research labs.
Those changes may assuage House lawmakers as they seek to reconcile the two bills in the coming months.