Biden Calls on Congress to Finalize Innovation and Competitiveness Bill

By Cathalijne Adams
“This is a major fundamental shift that’s taking place. And America is finally deciding to catch up and lead it instead of being outpaced by China and other countries,” President Biden said during a speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C. | Screenshot from The White House YouTube stream

“Congress needs to get this bill to my desk as quickly as possible,” President Biden said during a speech in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday.  

President Biden urged Congress to finalize work on an innovation and competitiveness bill during an event in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday. Speaking at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Biden stressed “the major fundamental shift that’s taking place” as nations race to establish themselves as leaders in clean energy industry, and the need for immediate action if America is to reclaim its mantle as a global leader in science and technology.

Biden said:

“Congress needs to get this bill to my desk as quickly as possible. Our economic strength is on the line. And national security as well is on the line. Companies are ready to invest in America, in American communities, in American workers. But they need to see that their government is capable of investing in our future. Other countries are racing ahead, and we can’t wait afford to wait. So, Congress, get this bipartisan bill to my desk. North Carolina needs it. America needs it. And let’s meet this moment together. That’s exactly what we did when we passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

This past week, Senate and House leadership announced appointments to a bipartisan committee that will work to reconcile differences between the Senate’s United States Innovation and Competition Act and the House’s America COMPETES Act and deliver a final bill for Biden to sign into law. Both the Senate and House bills aimed to boost American competitiveness by investing in domestic semiconductor production and research and development (R&D), though the House version included important trade remedies that the Senate excluded from its bill.  

The legislation that emerges from the conference committee could well be the largest federal industrial policy bill that the U.S. has seen in years. But it may come too late.

According to a 2021 Congressional Research Service report, the United States had established itself as a global leader in R&D as the U.S. accounted for approximately 69% of the world’s R&D funding by 1960, helping to establish the nation as a global leader in science and technology. However, by 2019, the U.S. accounts for only 30% of the world’s R&D funding as other nations have recognized the imperative for industrial innovation.

“Other nations are closing in fast,” Biden said. “We can and we must change that. Not by hurting other countries, but by developing ourselves.”

As crucial as investment in industry and STEM education is to the nation’s economic future is, American manufacturers and workers also need trade tools to fight decades of unfair trade that have flooded the global market with artificially cheap goods from countries like China.  

Thus, any legislation that makes its way to Biden’s desk must include the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0. The provision, which was included in the House’s America COMPETES Act, would expedite trade remedies and relief for domestic companies encountering nations that repeatedly dump imports in the U.S. market.

Ahead of Biden’s speech Thursday, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers issued a report on the nation’s key economic issues. Unsurprisingly, the report cautioned that the pandemic exposed the fragility of America’s supply chains, but the root cause of these vulnerabilities lies in “outsourcing, offshoring and insufficient investment in reliance,” underscoring the need for a major revamp of the U.S. manufacturing base. If Congress can reconcile the two versions of the competitiveness bill while retaining the House’s Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 provisions, there’s hope that may well be accomplished.

In coming days members of Biden’s Cabinet, including Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, are expected to speak out for the bill. We’ll watch this legislation as it progresses. And don’t forget: You can tell your lawmakers that it needs to address trade enforcement too. Click here to send them a message.