Who says bipartisanship is dead in Washington?
The evenly-split Senate, which is mired in partisan bickering over everything from voting rights to a commission on the Jan. 6 insurrection, has finally found reason to reach across the aisle and work together: China.
What is being called the most expansive industrial policy legislation in U.S. history was approved by the Senate Tuesday evening. The partisan divisions that have roadblocked the White House’s infrastructure bill and voting rights reform legislation have disappeared as both parties seem equally concerned over China’s growing economic stature, and especially its advancements in manufacturing and technology.
The bill would provide a nearly quarter-trillion-dollar investment from the government to help build up America’s manufacturing and technological capacities to keep the U.S. on a level playing field with the country that has become its greatest global rival.
The fact that the legislation passed by a large margin (68-32) is proof that keeping up with Beijing is important enough to U.S. interests that it is one of the few issues that can unite both political parties.
News of the bill’s success were cheered on by White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
The bill calls for massive investments in semiconductor manufacturing, artificial intelligence research, robotics, quantum computing and a range of other technologies.
The New York Times highlights how radical a move this is for the GOP and its party beliefs:
“It is an especially striking shift for Republicans, who are following the lead of former President Donald J. Trump and casting aside what was once their party’s staunch opposition to government intervention in the economy.”
Support for the bill has been garnered in part by fear that inaction could lead the U.S. to winding up being dependent on its biggest geopolitical foe. The Times highlighted these words from a recent speech by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor:
“Around the globe, authoritarian governments smell blood in the water. They believe that squabbling democracies like ours can’t come together and invest in national priorities the way a top-down, centralized and authoritarian government can. They are rooting for us to fail so they can grab the mantle of global economic leadership and own the innovations.”
Schumer also dismissed concerns that the U.S., by passing this legislation, would be adopting “industrial policy” in which a country picks favorites in the business sector and rewards them at the expense of competitors.
“This means we’re going to invest in quantum computing or A.I. or biomedical research, or storage, and then let the private sector take that knowledge and create jobs,” Schumer said in an interview. “These are the areas of dominance that we need research in, and these are the areas of potential industrial growth, great job growth.”