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Bullet policy · Apr 12, 2021

Infrastructure Plan Calls for Major Investments in Research

President Joe Biden has proposed investing $250 billion in the U.S. research enterprise under his broad infrastructure plan geared towards rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, creating jobs, and enabling the U.S. to “out-compete China.”

The $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, released on March 31, 2021, calls on Congress to provide $180 billion for “R&D and the technologies of the future” and an additional $70 billion for research on a number of areas ranging from fighting pandemics to supporting innovation in rural areas. Notable research provisions in the plan include:

  • An additional $50 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation over an unspecified period, with a portion of that funding directed towards creating a new technology directorate “that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government.” The plan notes that this provision builds on bipartisan proposals in Congress, referring to the Endless Frontier Act introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–NY) last year and a measure recently introduced by members of the House Science Committee.
  • $40 billion for upgrading research infrastructure in labs across the nation to be allocated across federal science agencies. Half of these funds would go to Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including creating a new national climate lab affiliated with an HBCU.
  • $35 billion investment in solutions and technologies needed to address the climate crisis and “position America as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs.” Biden also proposes creating a new agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate, focused on reducing emissions and building climate resilience.
  • $10 billion for R&D at HBCUs and other MSIs, with the goal of eliminating racial and gender inequities in research and STEM.
  • $15 billion for establishing up to 200 “centers of excellence” that will serve as “research incubators” at HBCUs and other MSIs to provide graduate fellowships and other opportunities for underserved populations.
  • $30 billion in additional funding for R&D to spur innovation and job creation in rural areas.
  • $14 billion investment in NIST, over an unspecified period, to “bring together industry, academia, and government to advance technologies and capabilities critical to future competitiveness.”
  • $30 billion in additional funding over 4 years to create jobs and prevent severe job losses caused by pandemics by investing in research, medical countermeasures manufacturing, and related biopreparedness and biosecurity.
  • $15 billion for demonstration projects related to climate change research priorities.

The plan has garnered praise from Democratic lawmakers, while receiving pushback from Republicans opposed to increasing corporate taxes. “The House is already at work to advance a transformational infrastructure package,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and applauded the plan as “visionary, once-in-a-century investment in the American people and in America’s future.” Representative Sam Graves (R-MO), Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, criticized the proposal as “a multitrillion-dollar partisan shopping list of progressive priorities, all broadly categorized as ‘infrastructure’ and paid for with massive, job-killing tax increases.”

Democrats are now preparing to pass legislation based on Biden’s infrastructure proposal without GOP support using the budget reconciliation process, which would allow bypassing a Senate filibuster.

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