US Senate Passes Bill for Nearly $250 Billion in Science Funding

The US Senate Chamber with the Capitol Building in the background.

The Senate passed the US Innovation and Competitiveness Act—a massive science funding bill that aims to help the US compete with China technologically—on Tuesday (June 8) with a 68–32 vote. If the bill passes the House, it would provide $250 billion for research and help foster collaborations between academia and industry.

The act’s bipartisan support, with 48 Democrats, 19 Republicans, and one Independent voting in favor, reflects rising concerns about America’s dependence on China, reports The New York Times. “Either we can concede the mantle of global leadership to our adversaries or we can pave the way for another generation of American leadership,” says Democratic Senate majority leader and cosponsor of the legislation Chuck Schumer (D-NY), according to the Times. The paper calls the bill “the most significant government intervention in industrial policy in decades.”

Overall, the legislation would authorize roughly $190 billion in spending to bolster research and development in so-called “key technology focus areas,” which include biotechnology, synthetic biology, genomics, and biometrics, and an additional $54 billion to develop semiconductors and telecommunications equipment. Among the specific funds laid out in the bill’s hundreds of pages are $81 billion for the National Science Foundation, $5.2 billion for scholarships and fellowships in key technological focus areas, and more than $4 billion to commercialize technologies developed by academics, reports Inside Higher Ed. Also included are China-specific provisions, including a ban on downloading the social media app TikTok, owned by a Chinese company, on government devices and allowances for Taiwanese diplomats and military to display their flag and wear their uniforms, Reuters reports.

Government officials in China expressed “resolute opposition” to the bill, according to Reuters, adding that the bill’s passage indicates the US has a “paranoid delusion of wanting to be the only winner” and paints China as an “imaginary enemy.”

The bill moves on to the Democrat-controlled House, where its fate is uncertain. “I look forward to working with the House of Representatives on this important bipartisan legislation, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as possible,” President Joe Biden says in a statement. “As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind.”