A U.S. Senate committee voted 24-4 to pass a compromise measure authorizing more than $110 billion for basic and advanced technology research over five years in the face of rising competitive pressure from China.
The “Endless Frontier” act would authorize most of the money, $100 billion, over five years to invest in basic and advanced research, commercialization, and education and training programs in key technology areas, including artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology and advanced energy.
The bill must still be approved by the full U.S. Senate and the U.S. House is working on a similar effort.
“Developing economies are taking some of the best science and information that have been created in the United States of America, and deploying it,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “We now need to look at our R&D infrastructure and what we in the United States are doing to be more nimble.”
The measure, sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Republican Senator Todd Young and others, would also authorize another $10 billion to designate at least 10 regional technology hubs and create a supply chain crisis-response program to address issues like the shortfall in semiconductor chips harming auto production.
The bill does not include legislation to allow automakers to deploy tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles on U.S. roads despite a push by some lawmakers.
Senators Gary Peters, a Democrat, and John Thune, a Republican, had sought to win approval for a proposal for regulators to initially exempt 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind but could not reach agreement.
The self-driving effort came under criticism from unions and a plaintiff lawyer group. Thune has been working for five years to win approval.
Peters on Wednesday won approval for an amendment to establish a $2 billion supplemental financial assistance program at the Commerce Department to support production of mature semiconductor chips used by automakers and others.
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