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  • Washington Highlights

    House Democrats Unveil China Competitiveness Bill


    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations

    House Democrats introduced the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (America COMPETES) Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521) and accompanying summary on Jan. 25. The $250 billion legislative package is aimed at investing in domestic research and manufacturing to enhance the country’s global competitiveness and incorporates several bipartisan provisions that have already passed the House as stand-alone measures.

    The America COMPETES Act is a counterproposal from House Democrats to the Senate-passed, bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) [refer to Washington Highlights, June 11, 2021]. The bill’s introduction follows a Nov. 17, 2021, agreement announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that the chambers would eventually conference the two proposals to generate a newly negotiated compromise package [refer to Washington Highlights, Dec. 3, 2021].

    The America COMPETES Act does contain companion measures to several in USICA, including:

    • Authorization of increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the establishment of a new NSF Technology Directorate. The AAMC joined a Nov. 23 Coalition for National Science Funding letter in support of increased NSF investments through the competitiveness legislation.
    • Provisions to address sexual harassment in science, including through uniform reporting guidance across research agencies.
    • Funding authorization for an NSF fellowship program to support early-career researchers.
    • Several provisions to increase racial, gender, and geographic diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.
    • Establishment of a National Engineering Biology Research and Development Initiative, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to increase engineering biology research.
    • Lowering the threshold for the reporting of foreign gifts and contracts under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. The House proposal lowers the threshold for reporting from $250,000 to $100,000 within one year compared to the Senate-passed $50,000 threshold. Both proposals would require certain institutions to set up a searchable database of foreign gifts and contracts received by individual faculty members.

    While the legislative packages aim to address the United States’ global competitiveness, the America COMPETES Act utilizes differing approaches of note to the academic medicine community including:

    • Immediate eligibility and exemptions from numerical limits for immigrant visa seekers for those with doctoral degrees from qualified institutions in STEM.
    • Enhancements in the use of the Strategic National Stockpile including efforts to improve processes to distribute supplies and the establishment of a pilot grant program for states to expand or maintain strategic stockpiles.

    The House package does not include certain Senate-passed measures aimed at addressing research security in higher education, which the AAMC and other higher education associations previously raised concerns about [refer to Washington Highlights, May 21, 2021].

    The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the new proposal following the members’ return from recess on Jan. 31, including consideration of amendments that will be subject to initial review by the House Rules Committee during a Feb. 1 committee meeting. Following House passage, the two chambers are expected to reconcile differences between America COMPETES and USICA before additional votes on final passage of a compromise package.