Congress hands China another win 


Earlier this month, Congress voted to fund a portion of the federal government in a so-called minibus appropriations bill. Much of our nation’s science and technology enterprise is included in this bill, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In a remarkably shortsighted action, the budgets for these flagship science agencies were slashed in this legislation. This is an unquestionable victory for our global competitors like China. 

To be clear, I, like most of my Democratic colleagues, voted for this bill — not because we support these cuts, but because it would be grossly irresponsible to shut down the federal government. But the reason we are at this juncture is that my Republican colleagues have insisted for this entire Congress on draconian cuts to our federal budget.

They’ve taken us to the brink of government shutdowns multiple times to get their way. Democrats have fought to preserve programs Republicans having been trying to slash. Painful cuts remain for many of our most important government programs. 

The work that NSF and NIST do to advance our nation’s economic competitiveness is often unheralded. But when it comes to advanced technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence, these agencies are at the forefront of keeping the United States as the world technological leader. And those are just the technologies in the headlines. Our entire innovation system across all sectors rests on the scientific foundation built in large part by these agencies.

Congress recognized their importance when we passed the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022 with a large bipartisan vote. This legislation called for significant increases in NSF and NIST’s budgets to keep America at the cutting edge. Under Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), the Republican House has not just abandoned those efforts — it’s effectively declared that the U.S. no longer needs to lead. 

Meanwhile, in China, a different story is unfolding.  

On March 5, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese Communist Party announced massive spending increases of 10 percent to their science and technology research in an effort to break “US strangleholds on key technology.” This is not an anomaly. For the past two decades, China has steadily increased their investments in research and development. And these investments have a clearly stated purpose: unseating the United States as the world’s leader in science and technology. China’s Communist Party understands that winning the technological race will result in China winning the economic and national security race. 

At least some of my Republican colleagues understand this. Just last year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) forcefully noted on the Senate floor, “China is America’s single greatest strategic adversary.” Republicans in the House created a whole new committee to address the competitive threats posed by China: The Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. This select committee has held numerous hearings, issued reports, and made recommendations about the very serious competitive threat posed by China, and specifically its strategic investments in science and technology. 

But when it came time to actually commit the funds necessary to keep America first, Republicans failed us as a nation. It’s time for my colleagues to put up or shut up. If they are serious about the threat from China, then they need to get serious about investing in America. 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. 

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