- Bipartisan China Competition Bill Clears First Senate Hurdle
- The Senate Thursday voted to move forward on an expansive bill to bolster U.S. economic competitiveness and confront China’s rise after a deal was struck for a debate on additional amendments that was demanded by Republicans.
- The procedural vote is the first of two on the legislation before the Senate takes a final vote on passage, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants done before the weekend, when senators are scheduled to begin a week-long break. It came after hours of negotiations on what amendments would get votes.
- The legislation, which has bipartisan support in the Senate, would plow more than $100 billion into U.S. research and development and provide $52 billion to foster domestic semiconductor manufacturing. It also includes a wide array of measures directly targeting China -- on human rights and its influence in the U.S. -- underscoring the bipartisan angst over the rise of the strategic rival.
- As Republicans threatened to hold up the bill, Schumer said the Senate already has voted on 18 amendments, 14 of them from GOP senators.
- “It’s time to move forward together and pass this bill,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “We can finish the bill today.”
- Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell responded that the chamber’s bipartisan work “is not completed” as he urged consideration of additional amendments. He added that, “Republicans don’t want a big fight over this.”
- At the center of the delay was an amendment from Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho that he sponsored with Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. It takes aim at trade imbalances between the U.S. and China, as well as other countries and was expecting it to be included in the final package. Schumer had excluded it because, he said, it wasn’t germane to the underlying bill.
- “It expands and strengthens our trade posture, not just vis a vis China, but our trade posture globally,” Crapo said. “I think it’s one of the most critical things we could do here.”
- He said he wasn’t sure whether it had enough votes to be added as an amendment.
- Other Senators were seeking consideration of their amendments as well. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida wanted votes on some of the security measures he’s proposed to help protect U.S. intellectual property from theft. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has two proposed amendments, including one that would require the U.S. get stakes in semiconductor manufacturers that receive aid.
- While the legislation has broad bipartisan backing in the Senate, the House is still working on its own version and it could be tougher to muster enough support for a final bill. Both parties in the House are deeply divided over how to best to get tougher on competitiveness with China.
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