The House passed a bill aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with China The bill includes a number of provisions, such as $52 billion for chip manufacturing, $45 billion to improve supply chains for critical items, and $160 billion for scientific research and innovation.

The House passed a bill aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with China

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Congressional leaders say it's time to invest in American manufacturing as a way to bring consumer costs down.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: The chip shortage has raised the prices of cars, of appliances, of iPhones.

MARTINEZ: That's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Congress has passed legislation which aims to fix supply chain bottlenecks. It'll also invest billions to make semiconductors in the U.S. But there's still a very lively debate in Congress about how to make the U.S. more competitive. Here's NPR's Deirdre Walsh.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson says boosting federal money for research is essential to help the U.S. go toe to toe with China.

EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON: We've just got to compete. And we've got to hopefully feel like we're a little step ahead. And that's really a big goal.

WALSH: The House passed a bill on Friday that invests $160 billion for research efforts in federal labs and universities. It has $52 billion for manufacturing microprocessors. Johnson, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says the bill also targets money for historically Black colleges and universities so students can pursue science, math and technology tracks.

JOHNSON: Because we have more minorities and more women available to offer opportunities, to go into those fields, than we've ever had. And because we see the growth in America, we cannot ignore that minority population.

WALSH: All but one House Republican voted no on the House bill, many charging it wasn't tough enough on China. Florida Republican Congressman Daniel Webster told NPR he backs some pieces of the bill, but said Democratic leaders skewed the framework too much towards federal control.

DANIEL WEBSTER: We're trying to get something that is less government and more open to private sector. What they're doing is basically trying to get the - get a government-funded program to decide all the things that are happening - just not going to go for that.

WALSH: Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole agrees federal money is needed because most American companies can't afford to spend on research. And that has consequences.

TOM COLE: I think there's certainly a role in incentivizing relocation of industry back into the United States. And we've gotten some pretty tough lessons about how vulnerable we are on everything from pharmaceuticals to computer chips.

WALSH: But Cole said he couldn't back the House Democrats' bill because it was loaded up with too many items he called poison pills. This is a contrast with the Senate bill, where 19 Republicans backed that chamber's competitiveness legislation. Schumer downplayed the differences between the two approaches.

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SCHUMER: Actually, the framework that they set up and the framework that's in the USICA bill are not that far apart. I believe all the gaps are very bridgeable.

WALSH: Johnson says the effort to keep pace in a global economy never stops. She says Congress should try to be ahead of the curve so it can support the next big technological breakthrough.

JOHNSON: We have some of the best research labs in the world that we support. And we know that nothing is going to just take a seat and stay the same.

WALSH: The House and Senate now try to hammer out a final version they hope can pass both chambers and get signed by the president soon. Getting that done in an election year is tough. But regardless of who controls Congress next fall, if the U.S. fails to address supply chain disruptions, consumers will continue to face higher prices. And American businesses will struggle to keep up with global competitors.

Deirdre Walsh, NPR News.

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