Senate Nears Passage of Bill to Confront China’s Economic Rise


© Bloomberg. HOUSTON, TX – JULY 22: A Chinese national flag waves at the Chinese consulate after the United States ordered China to close its doors on July 22, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to the State Department, the U.S. government ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate


(Bloomberg) — The Senate moved toward passage Thursday of an expansive bill to bolster U.S. economic competitiveness and confront China’s rise, debating some last amendments before a final vote.

The legislation cleared an initial procedural vote after a deal was struck between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republicans on considering some additions to the bill. That cleared the way for the Senate to meet Schumer’s goal of passing the legislation before senators left Washington for a scheduled week-long break.

The bill, which has bipartisan support in the Senate, would plow more than $100 billion into U.S. research and development and provide $52 billion to foster domestic semiconductor manufacturing. It also includes a wide array of measures directly targeting China — on human rights and its influence in the U.S. — underscoring the bipartisan angst over the rise of the strategic rival.

The procedural vote was delayed for several hours as Republicans demanded their amendments get put before the Senate. Schumer said the Senate already has voted on 18 amendments, 14 of them from GOP senators.

“It’s time to move forward together and pass this bill,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “We can finish the bill today.”

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell responded that while his party wanted their amendments considered, “Republicans don’t want a big fight over this.”

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At the center of the delay was an amendment from Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho that he sponsored with Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. It takes aim at trade imbalances between the U.S. and China, as well as other countries and was expecting it to be included in the final package. Schumer had excluded it because, he said, it wasn’t germane to the underlying bill.

“It expands and strengthens our trade posture, not just vis-a-vis China, but our trade posture globally,” Crapo said. “I think it’s one of the most critical things we could do here.”

He said he wasn’t sure whether it had enough votes to be added to the legislation.

Other senators were seeking consideration of their amendments as well. But only Crapo’s and one from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on security measures to help protect U.S. intellectual property from theft were considered. Rubio’s amendment was tabled.

While the legislation has broad bipartisan backing in the Senate, the House is still working on its own version and it could be tougher to muster enough support for a final bill. Both parties in the House are deeply divided over how to best to get tougher on competitiveness with China.

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