Senate punts vote on massive spending for research and development after Republican opposition
The Senate is punting to next month its vote on whether to spend nearly $200 billion of taxpayer money on research and development following Republican opposition.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Friday said the bill to out-compete China, which he has championed, would be re-upped on June 8, after he sought to pass the bill on Thursday.
The legislation originally proposed $100 billion in spending for the National Science Foundation, which some Republican senators said could not be trusted to safeguard the money from scientists compromised by China. A battle over the funding in the Endless Frontier Act ensued, and the spending swelled with portions diverted away from the NSF.
Late Thursday, Republicans raised objections that they were not provided sufficient time to review new provisions of the bill. Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, complained that the bill started at 160 pages, grew to 730 pages during committee meetings, then nearly doubled 10 days ago to 1,445 pages, followed by an addition on Thursday to get it to more than 2,300 pages.
Mr. Lee said another change was made at 10:59 p.m. Thursday with few details provided to the senators about exactly what was being changed.
“The American people understand that when you’re throwing around hundreds of billions of dollars at a time, you really have an obligation to know what on earth we’re voting for,” Mr. Lee said near midnight on Friday morning. “We don’t know that. We can’t credibly maintain that. We certainly shouldn’t pretend to be competent to understand everything that’s in here.”
Prior to the late-night dispute, the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would spend about $190 billion on strengthening domestic technology markets and would increase taxpayer spending by $54.2 billion to build capacity to make semiconductors, microchips and telecommunications equipment.
Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Kennedy of Louisiana also raised concerns about the process undertaken to increase the bill’s spending as Thursday turned into Friday.
The Senate closed its business near 3 a.m. Friday and reopened at about 9 a.m. When the Senate resumed work on the bill, Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, read through a litany of examples of spending he called wasteful.
Mr. Paul pointed to charts showing previous research spending for projects including studying lizards on a treadmill and the risky sex habits of Japanese quail using cocaine. He said if the American people knew how their money was spent, they would oppose the bill.
“They’re only with you because they don’t know what you’re doing today, they don’t know that you’re wasting more money, that you’re shoveling good money after bad,” Mr. Paul said. “They don’t know that this is more of the same, that this has been going on for 50 years and nobody — Republican or Democrat — is fixing the problem. We’re just shoveling more money out the door. We’re destroying our country, we’re destroying our currency.”
Following the Republican complaints, Mr. Schumer took action to move a vote on the bill to next month so the Senate could vote on a commission to study the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which Republicans blocked.