Image Credits: AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite.
Amidst some good news on Friday (ie, the surprisingly great jobs report and the fact that the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected the gerrymandered redistricting map), almost no one paid attention to the fact that the House passed the America Competes Act. As I mentioned previously, the Senate passed a companion bill last June. Overall this legislation is meant to allow the U.S. to better compete with China, strengthen the supply chain, and reduce some inflationary pressures, so this is what the two bills have in common:
USICA and the COMPETES Act share certain core proposals, such as establishing a new National Science Foundation directorate and a program to seed regional innovation hubs across the country. In addition, both would directly appropriate $52 billion for semiconductor production and R&D initiatives that were authorized last year, and both include extensive provisions bearing on trade policy and foreign relations.
But there are some differences that will have to be worked out in conference before any legislation can actually go to Biden for his signature.
The Senate version received 19 Republican votes (including Senate Majority Leader McConnell), but the only House Republican to vote for it was Rep. Adam Kingsinger (R-IL). That happened regardless of the fact that 16 former U.S national security officials – including Republicans – urged passage of the bill, along with support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor groups and the semiconductor industry.
Republicans have been especially bellicose when it comes to ramping up the threat posed by China. They also spend a lot of time complaining about inflation and supply chain issues, while touting themselves as the so-called “populists” who care about working class Americans. This legislation tackles all of those concerns. We’ll learn whether their rhetoric is backed up by any real desire to address these issues when we see how willing they are to negotiate a compromise between the House and Senate bills. I won’t be holding my breath on that one, though.