House Passes Bills to Boost Scientific Competitiveness Against China

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
June 29, 2021 Updated: June 29, 2021

The House on Monday passed two bipartisan bills aimed to boost the United States’ ability to compete with the Chinese regime’s push to advance China’s technology.

The bills, which seek to bolster research and development programs in the United States, passed with wide bipartisan support. The first bill, titled the National Science Foundation for the Future Act HR2225, passed 345-67, while the second, called the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act, HR3593, was approved in a 351-68 vote.

It paves the way for additional funding for the National Science Foundation and for the Department of Energy, and comes in response to a Senate version of the bill that included more than $52 billion in grants and incentives for semiconductor manufacturing on American soil—a provision omitted by the House bills.

“The United States has long been a beacon of excellence in science and engineering,” said House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson. “While we should be cognizant of our increasing global competition, we must not be constrained by it. To continue to lead, we must chart our own course.”

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said in a statement that the United States is at a “critical juncture in our nation’s history” and that Americans “need to be more focused on the role of science in our society.”

“We must significantly boost funding for science. For years, we have allowed millions of dollars of excellent research [to] go unfunded,” Johnson said.

The measures would boost funding for the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy’s Office of Science by roughly 7 percent per year. If signed into law, the bills will also bolster science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (STEM) education, and professional development to assist with recruitment in those industries.

The National Science Foundation for the Future Act also includes a provision that prohibits research and development grant applicants from participating in “malign foreign talent recruitment” programs from a “foreign country of concern” for the duration of their award.

The countries of concerns currently include China, North Korea, Russia, Iran.

The measures would also encompass the Chinese regime’s Thousand Talents Program, which has come under close U.S. scrutiny over threats to national security.

The Thousand Talents Program, enacted in 2008, was Beijing’s recruitment program to attract talented overseas Chinese and foreign experts in the fields of science and technology to help the ruling Chinese Communist Party fuel its innovation drive.

“It is critical that we strike the correct balance between keeping our research enterprise open but also from protecting it from adversaries who seek to take advantage of our open system,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) said of the provision.

The Senate’s bill, known as the “U.S. Innovation and Competition Act,” or USICA, was backed by a strong bipartisan 68-32 majority on June 8. The comprehensive bill aims to boost government support for science and technology, to address the efforts to overtake the United States as a global leader from communist China.

China’s rubber stamp committee expressed “strong indignation and resolute opposition” to the Senate bill, which was praised in Washington as a rare example of bipartisan action by the deeply divided Congress.

President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats control both the House and Senate but only by narrow margins. However, the desire for a hard line in dealings with a totalitarian Beijing is a rare bipartisan sentiment in the deeply divided Congress.

In a statement Monday, the president said he was “heartened” by the passage of the House bills and that his administration “looks forward to continuing to work with the House and the Senate in producing a final bill I can sign.”

Biden said that “decades of neglect and disinvestment have left us at a competitive disadvantage as countries across the globe, like China, have poured money and focus into new technologies and industries,” leaving the United States at risk of being left behind.

“By rebuilding those domestic sources of strength, we can out-compete China and the rest of the world for years to come,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.