Republican Dissent Delays Passage of China Competitiveness Bill
Some Republican senators argued they needed more time to review the bill. Others said its nearly $200 billion price tag was too high.,
G.O.P. dissent delays passage of China competitiveness bill until June.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had hoped to approve the China measure before the Senate departed for its weeklong Memorial Day break.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times
May 28, 2021, 2:04 p.m. ET
An expansive, $195 billion bill aimed at bolstering the nation’s competitive edge against China hit a snag in the Senate on Friday, after a small group of Republicans objected to its swift passage, pushing a vote on the bipartisan legislation until next month.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, who had pressed to approve the measure before the Senate departed for its weeklong Memorial Day break, abruptly changed course on Friday in the face of the Republican objections, saying he would move to complete the measure in early June. The bill, which Mr. Schumer co-authored with Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, is expected to pass overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.
The legislation had moved swiftly through the Senate, powered by rising fears among members of both parties that the United States is losing its economic and technological edge against China. But the last-minute delay followed nearly 24 hours of legislative disarray, beginning with an intensive round of closed-door haggling in which senators made significant changes to the sprawling bill, and ending with a midnight airing of grievances from a small group of conservative senators who complained they had not had time to review its contents.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, joined by a small group of Republicans, gummed up the legislative process late Thursday night with an objection, blocking Democrats’ from moving ahead with the bill. Speaking from the Senate floor early Friday morning, he complained that senators had not been given enough time to look through the legislation, and that none of his favored priorities — specifically one to fund a wall at the southern border — had been included.
Other Republicans who joined his objection argued that the cost of the bill — which would also allocate $52 billion to a previously created program to subsidize the semiconductor industry — was simply too high.
“We have been fiscally irresponsible, quite frankly, and every opportunity we now have to call it to the American people’s attention needs to be used,” said Senator Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming. “There are concepts in this bill which I find compelling, but now it’s over $200 billion.”
Their complaints mirrored broader discontent within their party, with Republican senators expressing annoyance at how quickly the measure had barreled through the chamber. But the aim of the legislation — competing with China — as well as a host of parochial items that were added to the bill to bulk up support won over a large swath of conservatives, many of whom were annoyed that their colleagues’ antics had kept them in Washington.
The Republican support underscored a broader shift in the party that has followed the lead of Donald J. Trump, with an increasing number of conservatives backing federal interventions to shore up American manufacturing, citing a rising threat from China.