Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) blasted Democrats’ COMPETES Act for failing to counter China, despite it being marketed by Democrats as a means to increase U.S. competitiveness with the eastern superpower.
“Their fake China bill doesn’t just fail to counter China—it actually helps China by lifting visa limits on high-skilled foreign nationals, failing to protect research from Chinese espionage and not enforcing Section 117 requirements,” Banks said. “When [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] read the bill, he breathed a sigh of relief.”
In several statements, Banks has said the COMPETES Act should be nicknamed the “CONCEDES Act.”
On March 18, Banks introduced the Safeguard Our Universities From Foreign Influence Act, which he described as “legislation to strengthen disclosure requirements and enforcement for foreign gifts and contracts at U.S. universities.”
Banks introduced the legislation in response to provisions of the COMPETES Act, which he says would allow Chinese foreign actors to continue to exercise a great deal of influence over American universities.
“Speaker Pelosi’s CONCEDES Act uses a classic sleight of hand to avoid standing up to China,” Banks said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “It proposes a ‘review’ of gifts from Chinese nationals, but if they are illicit, it doesn’t actually do anything to stop them.
“Democrats are trying to trick Americans into another decade of cozy relations with the Communist Party. Their fake China bill does nothing to stand up to China. It’s legislative fraud.
“My bill provides a simple solution to hostile foreign influence at universities. Unlike Democrat’s bill, my bill recognizes that American citizens can act on behalf of hostile foreign governments too and reviews all gifts from potential bad actors—instead of singling out foreigners.”
Democrats pushed the bill through the House at the beginning of February, but differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill are still being resolved.
During a March 31 press conference, Pelosi defended the COMPETES Act as not only increasing U.S. competitiveness with China, but also for its effect on domestic prices amid rampant inflation.
The bill, proponents say, would increase U.S. manufacturing and would thereby reduce consumer costs.
“Increase supply to lower costs,” Pelosi said.
In a 20-page summary of the bill, Democrats stated that the legislation is “a bold legislative package that makes transformational new investments in research, innovation and American manufacturing that will ensure that America can outcompete any nation in the world, now and for decades to come.”
“The package will accelerate U.S. production of critical semiconductor chips, strengthen the supply chain to make more goods in America, turbocharge our research capacity to lead the technologies of the future, and advance our global competitiveness, while supporting strong labor standards and human rights, among other key provisions,” the summary reads.
However, despite a generally broad bipartisan consensus about the importance of increasing U.S. production and competitiveness, some sections of the legislation are far less agreed upon.
For one, the COMPETES Act would invest “in the fight against climate change” by “supporting research to advance the next generation of energy storage, solar, hydrogen, critical materials, fusion energy, manufacturing, carbon removal, and bioenergy technologies, among many other areas.”
Historically, research and tech funding in the United States has been targeted to specific sectors or projects. Generally, these are carried out by already-existing agencies, such as NASA or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or through government-contracted third parties.
Democrats’ proposed legislation would instead “strengthen and expand our nation’s STEM workforce to better represent the diversity of our nation.”
To meet the goal of “investing in the fight against climate change,” the legislation would prepare “the next generation of diverse clean energy researchers, scientists, and professionals.”
The COMPETES Act would also push to increase “diversity” among STEM teachers.
Banks has considered China a key threat to U.S. security interests for some time, and much of his past work in the House has focused on countering China.
Banks’s criticism of the bill comes after a study by the University of San Diego California showed that Democrats mentioned China in tweets significantly less often than Republicans.
According to the data they collected, 90 percent of Republicans mentioned China during the 116th Congress compared to only 70 percent of Democrats. At the same time, Democrats sent out substantially more tweets, on average totaling about 60 percent more Twitter posts than Republicans on the platform.
Banks, who mentioned China in 585 tweets—more than any other member of Congress—said in a statement on March 31 that the information indicates that Democrats are less serious about countering the Chinese threat than they portray themselves as being.
“Democrats are afraid to stand up to China on Twitter, so it’s not surprising that they don’t have the guts to stand up to China on the House floor,” Banks said.