A sweeping Senate bill aimed at making the United States more competitive with China and shoring up domestic computer chip manufacturing with $50 billion in emergency funds was abruptly shelved Friday after a handful of Republican senators orchestrated a last-minute attempt to halt it.
Votes on the American Innovation and Competition Act were postponed until June 8, when senators are scheduled to return from a weeklong Memorial Day recess.
The emerging final product has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support and would be one of the more comprehensive investments in U.S. research and development in recent years. But the bill became weighted down by the sheer scope of the effort. It swelled to more than 2,400 pages drawing, sharp opposition from a core group of GOP senators who kept the Senate in a nearly-all-night session as they insisted on more time to digest the bill and make changes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set up the new schedule when it became clear the Republican senators would not relent.
“We have every intention of sticking it out until the job is done,” Schumer, (Democrat, New York), said as he opened the chamber Friday.
The bill is key to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plans, and is a massive effort to reinvest in innovative technologies as the country tries to bolster and rebuild home state industries that have shifted overseas during the era of globalization.
It’s also a test of whether the split 50-50 Senate can accomplish bipartisan achievements when there’s pressure on Democrats to change the rules to push past obstruction and gridlock.
Passage was still expected despite the GOP efforts to impede it.
A top Republican author, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, characterized his underlying proposal that anchors the bill — the Endless Frontier Act he co-authored with Schumer — as part of the country’s history of innovation, like the moon landing or the launch of the internet, that Washington needs to foster if America is to remain competitive.
“It’s not about beating China,” Young said in a speech Thursday. He said it’s about rising to the challenge posed by China “to be a better version of ourselves.”