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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a press conference on May 25. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Senate voted 68-30 on Thursday to advance a sweeping China-focused global competition bill, clearing a major procedural hurdle after concerns over potential Republican opposition.

Why it matters: The bill, which faces additional debate before a vote is held on final passage, is seen as a litmus test for whether Republicans could work with Democrats on any legislation in the deeply divided Senate. The vote was held open for hours after Republicans negotiated more time to vote on amendments.

Context: The foundation of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is a wide-ranging bipartisan proposal from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) that would establish a technology directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

  • In February, Schumer asked both Democratic committee chairs and their ranking Republicans to work on measures that could be included in a broader package to bolster the tech sector, manufacturing and research as the U.S. competes with China.
  • The resulting $200 billion proposal, subject to final changes, had input from half a dozen Senate committees, a sign of the bipartisan consensus for the need to outcompete China, according to Schumer.
  • It would provide $52 billion to support domestic semiconductor manufacturing, $16.9 billion to the Energy Department for R&D and energy-related supply chains, and $10 billion to NASA’s human landing systems program, among other provisions.

What they're saying: "This is not a minor bill. Just because there's not partisan fighting doesn’t mean it's not one of the most important bills we have passed in a very long time. And we'll look back in history and say this was a moment when America got a grip back on itself and moved forward after several years of languishing, at best," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

What to watch: The Senate will continue debating the bill and could hold another procedural vote to advance the Endless Frontier Act, an underlying bill that would authorize $81 billion for the National Science Foundation from fiscal year 2022 to 2026.

Go deeper

May 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Schumer's litmus test

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is forcing Republicans into a corner as he tries to pass his China-focused global competition bill.

Why it matters: It's important by itself but also seen by the left as a test for whether Democrats can work with the GOP on anything. If it fails to gain support, it would likely endanger future bipartisan efforts — including infrastructure talks — for the remainder of the 117th Congress.

Updated May 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden concerned by lack of "new funds" in GOP's infrastructure counteroffer

President Biden (L) makes a statement to the press as Sen. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) looks on. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Pool/Getty Images

A group of Senate Republicans on Thursday released the framework for their latest counterproposal to President Biden's infrastructure plan, raising their offer from $568 billion to $928 billion.

The latest: White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged "several constructive additions" to the Republican offer, but said the administration remains "concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds for critical job-creating needs."

May 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Republicans' Hail Mary on infrastructure

President Biden meets with Senate Republicans in February. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Some Senate Republicans might agree to add to the national debt to pay for a scaled-back infrastructure plan, senators and aides told Axios — one more grasp at a deal with President Biden before Democrats pack up and go it alone.

Why it matters: Skipping over the thorny question of how to offset up to $1 trillion in new projects could actually be politically and philosophically easier for GOP lawmakers than agreeing on tax increases.