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Bullet policy · Feb 14, 2022

House Passes Expansive Innovation Legislation

On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521) — a broad legislative package that would make significant investments in science and innovation with the goal of increasing U.S. competitiveness with China.

The House voted 222-210 to pass the measure, with only one Republican voting for it and one Democrat voting against it. Notably, the COMPETES Act would make investments in U.S. semiconductor production and federal research agencies, including authorizing significant new spending at the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The sprawling legislation also aims to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields, combat sexual harassment in science, improve retention of international STEM talent, and prohibit federal grant recipients from participating in “malign” foreign talent recruitment programs. Read a summary of the bill’s science provisions.

It is important to note that the bill’s passage does not guarantee that the authorized science funding increases will actually be doled out. Funds will ultimately need to be appropriated by Congress through the annual federal budget process.

The COMPETES Act also includes provisions for international climate efforts and other environmental provisions that several Republican members of Congress have opposed. In particular, Republicans have criticized an $8 billion authorization for the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. supported resilience program intended to help developing nations address climate change. Republicans have also objected to provisions on trade and labor policy, although they largely support the research portions of the bill. According to House Science Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill “undoes more than a year of bipartisan work by the House Science Committee to develop and pass comprehensive legislation to double investment in basic research.” He argued that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “hijacked good bipartisan bills dealing with U.S. competitiveness and countering the malign influence of China to pass another Democratic wish list that will go nowhere in the Senate.”

The passage of the House bill sets in motion conference negotiations with the Senate to reconcile differences between the $350 billion America COMPETES Act and the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act or USICA (S. 1260), which the Senate passed last summer. USICA has more bipartisan support, with 19 Republican senators voting in favor of it, and is less focused on environmental action. Lawmakers hope to negotiate a final bill by this spring.

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