WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, today took to the Senate floor to praise legislation to boost American semiconductor manufacturing capacity and expand U.S. research in fields that will be necessary to outcompete China.
“Regrettably, at this moment, we are not in the driver's seat on a range of important technologies,” Wicker said. “China and other nations are increasingly dominant in tech innovation, posing a massive threat to not only our economy, but to our national security. But with today's vote, Congress has a chance to move us back in the right direction and put America back into a place to win the game.”
Wicker also expressed support for the measure because it would boost American innovation and investment in advanced technologies.
“But of course, chips and semiconductors are not the whole ballgame. This legislation goes much further, advancing American innovation in quantum computing, advanced robotics biotechnology, advanced materials and artificial intelligence – the full suite of technologies that we need to out-compete China,” Wicker said. “And instead of limiting those investments to a small handful of institutions in five wealthy states, this bill casts a wide net, enlisting the talent and expertise of STEM researchers nationwide.”
The legislation would authorize additional funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research these technologies. Wicker negotiated provisions in the legislation that would reduce historic disparities in research funding allocations, ensuring more universities can participate in U.S. efforts to outcompete China. The provisions would require that a minimum of 20 percent of funding be set aside for the 25 states and three territories that are included in NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) jurisdictions. These predominantly rural states, which include Mississippi, currently receive only 13 percent of federal research funding.
In the floor speech, Wicker noted that the bill enjoys bipartisan support from not only the White House and Congress, but also former Trump Administration officials such as former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, former trade adviser Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Thank you so much Mr. President.
We’ll soon be moving to a vote on the so-called CHIPS legislation.
It’s had said several names during its consideration in the Senate and in the House.
I prefer to call it the Chips and Science Act, but it is an important bipartisan piece of legislation, and I urge its adoption.
So I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this legislation. It will expand American semiconductor production, create new opportunities for research into cutting-edge technologies, and enhance our ability to compete with China.
There is no more important competition than the one for technological supremacy between the United States and China.
The outcome will shape the global balance of power for decades and will impact the security and prosperity of all Americans. Regrettably, at this moment, we are not in the driver's seat on a range of important technologies - China is. China and other nations are increasingly dominant in tech innovation, posing a massive threat to not only our economy, but to our national security, Mr. President.
But with today's vote, Congress has a chance to move us back in the right direction and put America back into a place to win the game.
This legislation, the Chips and Science Act, I'll call it, will provide a historic boost to our semiconductor industry, which for too long has played on an uneven global playing field. Increasing American chip production is absolutely vital given the importance of chips to our economy, as well as our national defense. The pandemic taught us the hard way that we cannot be dependent on semiconductor production halfway around the globe.
But of course, chips, semiconductors are not the whole ballgame. This legislation goes much further, advancing American innovation in quantum computing, advanced robotics, biotechnology, advanced materials, and artificial intelligence - the full suite of technologies that we need to out-compete China. And instead of limiting those investments to a small handful of institutions in five wealthy states, this bill casts a wide net, enlisting the talent and expertise of STEM researchers nationwide.
This legislation will guarantee that EPSCOR, a program designed to stimulate competitive research in 25 predominantly rural states, receives 20% of all R&D funding from the National Science Foundation, up from the current 13%. 13%, now 20% when it's finally ramped up. The bill will also reauthorize the National Science Foundation, the gold standard for funding basic research, and it will establish a new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, called TIP, at NSF to supercharge the process of translating basic research into technology development and then to the commercial market, enabling us to compete better with China across a vast range of technologies.
This legislation would not be complete without new safeguards against espionage, which we know is taking place right now. Against intellectual property theft, for which the Chinese have become notorious. I'm pleased we were able to include a number of long overdue reforms to protect the fruits of our nation's R&D investments.
Even so, there is more work to be done to protect American research across the whole of government, and I commend my friend Senator Portman from Ohio for moving forward with his initiative, which I hope can be incorporated into the statute at some point. Mr. President, this moment has been a long time in the making, and I want to issue some bipartisan congratulation and words of thanks. My dear friend and colleague from the state of Washington, the chair of the Commerce Committee, Senator Cantwell, is on the floor, and I congratulate her and commend her and thank her for her cooperation with me on this issue. I want to thank Leader Schumer and Senator Young, the original co-sponsors of the Endless Frontier Act, as well as Senator Cornyn, Senator Sinema and many other colleagues who helped make this a better bill.
And I also want to congratulate and commend officials from the previous administration, from the Trump administration, who are also telling Americans about the importance of this legislation. This is a bill that will be signed by President Joe Biden, but it's also endorsed by Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, President Trump's international trade adviser, by Mike Pompeo, President Trump's CIA director and Secretary of State, and by Robert O'Brien, former National Security Adviser to President Trump.
So, three distinguished and knowledgeable national defense officials and foreign policy officials are saying this about the bill we'll soon vote on.
Ambassador Lighthizer of the Trump administration said on Kudlow two days ago: “We are in this existential competition with China. The battleground of that competition is technology and chips. That is where we're going to win it or lose it.”
And he goes on to point out that the bill, while not perfect, is exactly the bill that we can get done right now. And I don't know of any bill that is ever perfect.
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, a stalwart in the last administration on national defense, says this, and I quote, “Congress must pass the CHIPS Act, for both our national and economic security. We have to become less dependent on China for critical technologies, and this is how we do it. A bipartisan bill supporting R&D for semiconductor chip manufacturing is essential to security, securing vital technologies for our economy and our military.”
That's Mike Pompeo, President Trump's Secretary of State.
And then Robert O'Brien, former National Security Adviser to President Trump, said “America needs this legislation without delay.”
So, I want to also say a note of thanks to my own staff, my personal staff and my committee staff, for their tireless efforts over the last year and a half on this issue.
This is the culmination of a great deal of work by some very, very talented personnel. Countless meetings, a legislative hearing in April, a markup in May, a final vote by the Senate in June, after days and days of debate on the floor. All of these staff members work nights and weekends, considering and helping manage almost 1000 amendments, Mr. President, through the committee and the floor. And all of them contributed in many ways.
I will single out for recognition my policy director, James Mazol, who was absolutely vital to us in putting it all together, and his entire team.
So thank you very much, Mr. President. I urge a yes vote. I think the strong 64 vote we had yesterday on cloture was indicative of the support, and I anticipate its passage and look forward to a successful passage in the House of Representatives. I yield the floor.