Republican campaign to safeguard $ 200 billion from Chinese espionage fails

On Thursday, the Senate rejected a Republican push to keep China away from nearly $ 200 billion of new taxpayer investments in technology research and development.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said the Senate will feel “pretty stupid” if it discovers that China stole the intellectual property created under the legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, which aims to develop more US-made technology. Rubio said China’s spying had already successfully stolen the American investigation and warned it would happen again.

“It is up to us to make sure we have safeguards so that they cannot continue to do this to us,” Rubio said in the Senate, pointing to a graphic on Chinese espionage efforts. “What’s the point of putting $ 200 billion of American public taxpayer money into conducting this whole investigation if we’re going to allow the Chinese to steal it from you?”

Under the bill, the United States would spend about $ 190 billion to try to strengthen national tech markets, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill would increase taxpayer spending by $ 54.2 billion to create capacity to manufacture semiconductors, microchips and telecommunications technology within the United States.

Seven Republicans led by Rubio pushed for an amendment that he said would better protect the resulting intellectual property. The amendment sought to create a counterintelligence selection and certification process for the billions of dollars of new spending, led by the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, and the Director of the National Center for Counterintelligence and Security.

The amendment failed by a vote of 55-40 when Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, decided to repeal the measure. Ms. Cantwell argued that investigating counterintelligence concerns about Chinese investments was not worthwhile for the Director of National Intelligence. Ms. Cantwell said she and other senators have already added enough safeguards to the bill.

“I have news for you. I want the national intelligence director to focus on cybersecurity, ”Cantwell said as he took steps to overturn Rubio’s amendment. “In case you didn’t see it, we just had a major pipeline incident. It is not the first incident, there are many incidents in which foreign governments have threatened our nation, our sources of power, basically by infiltrating our system. ”

He added that he would rather have the head of the intelligence community focus on Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria and terrorism rather than talk to university officials about the investments they have received.

While senators harboring concerns about China failed to get Rubio’s desired safeguards for a new investigation, some of those same lawmakers managed to direct billions of dollars toward federal officials who senators say can better protect cash from taxpayers.

The Endless Frontier Act originally proposed $ 100 billion in spending for the National Science Foundation, which some Republican senators said could not be trusted to safeguard money from scientists pledged by China. A funding battle ensued, and funding increased to more than $ 200 billion with portions diverted from the scientific foundation.

Rubio and Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said funding originally scheduled for basic research at the scientific foundation would be better protected from China and better used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research and development arm. of the Department of Defense. .

Sasse amended the bill to double DARPA’s budget over the next five years, to $ 7 billion, and his amendment passed by a 67-30 vote Wednesday night.

“Modern warfare is not just about enemy landings, it is about enemy piracy,” Sasse said in a statement following the approval of the amendment. “The Communist Party of China is pouring money into automated machine learning, [artificial intelligence]and quantum computing because they want to be the most important superpower in the world. DARPA’s job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. “

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