The Senate passed a bill intended to bolster America’s manufacturing and technological edge against China, advancing it with bipartisan support after earlier Republican objections to certain provisions stalled it for over a week.
The legislation, dubbed the United States Competition and Investment Act, would inject $250 billion towards chip manufacturing, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing and more. It passed 68 to 32, clearing the chamber’s 60-vote threshold.
“This bill will go down as one of the most important things this chamber has done in a very long time,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “A statement of faith in America’s ability to seize the opportunity of the 21st Century.”
The bill provides $52 billion to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Over 60% of the world’s semiconductors are made in Taiwan, an American ally that has faced increased Chinese aggression towards them.
“If, for any reason, that supply chain was cut off, it would lead to very serious consequences across our entire economy,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said ahead of the vote. “So our competitors are pouring tens of billions of dollars into boosting their own supply of these essential semiconductors, and the United States needs to keep up and to compete.”
Though the bill was amended and passed Tuesday, it was delayed for hours during a cloture vote in May after Republicans withheld their support over what they said was a lack of GOP amendment votes.
The vote took over three hours, and passed after last-minute deliberations secured enough Republican support. It ultimately advanced in the chamber with 68 votes before senators left for Memorial Day weekend, making it one of the few major bills to receive significant bipartisan support this Congress.
“Around the globe, authoritarian governments smell blood in the water,” Schumer said on the Senate floor amid the bill’s debate last month. “They believe that squabbling democracies like ours can’t come together and invest in national priorities the way a top-down, centralized and authoritarian government can. They are rooting for us to fail so they can grab the mantle of global economic leadership and own the innovations.”
“Frankly, I think China has left us no option but to make these investments,” Cornyn said Monday.
Just hours after its first cloture vote, however, several Republicans ground the chamber to a halt, keeping the chamber in session until after 3 a.m. the next day while speaking for hours about their continued objections to a bill that they said was too expensive.
“I don’t think this bill makes us stronger,” Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said during a 32-minute speech touching on an array of topics. “In fact, I think the Chinese sit back … and laugh at America thinking we’re going to be stronger by borrowing more money from China.”
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