Sen. Jim Inhofe

Shown is Senator Jim Inhofe, R-OK.

NORMAN — Both of Oklahoma’s senators voted against a bill — approved with immense bipartisan support Wednesday — that will allow the United States to bolster its competitiveness with China by investing money into scientific research and development over the next five years.

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which would allocate nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars toward research and development, passed with staunch bipartisan support in a vote of 68-32.

Despite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., voting for the bill, Oklahoma senators Jim Inhofe, R, and James Lankford, R, broke ranks and joined other members of the Republican party in voting against the bill.

“Choosing between technology and military priorities when it comes to competition with China is a false choice,” Inhofe said. “The strongest signal we can send to deter China is by competing on all levels: In technological innovation, in domestic manufacturing and in providing resources to our military to create the strongest military deterrent possible. This legislation is incomplete without adequate defense funding, and I cannot support it.”

The bill provides $2 billion for a CHIPS for America Defense Fund. Though this money does not go directly toward defense funding, it does go into research for semiconductor chips that would bolster America’s placement in the chip production world.

“These advanced semiconductor chips are in everything from your cellphone to fighter jets. The U.S. must increase our leadership in the future design, manufacturing and development of these chips, because it directly impacts our national and economic security,” Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said. “From the bipartisan meeting at the White House to this renewed support in the Senate, I believe Congress is united in the effort to restore semiconductor manufacturing back on American soil.”

Funding through the bill will be appropriated up front, and $400 million will be “allocated each year, over 5 years for the purposes of implementing” authorized programs, according to a news release about the bill.

“[This will be] providing support for R&D, testing and evaluation, workforce development and other related activities in coordination with the private sector, universities and other federal agencies to support the needs of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community,” the release said.

Inhofe proposed an amendment to the bill that would have “established points of order” to ensure that the country “adequately funds national defense with a whole-of-government investment plan for strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China.” The amendment failed by a 44-53 vote.

Lankford’s objections to the bill were not as focused on defense spending. In a statement, Lankford said he believes the bill was not focused enough on combatting and competing with China, and doesn’t give enough power to private businesses.

“The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is not focused, strategic or affordable,” Lankford said. “... The central control of innovation and production advocated in this bill gives the impression that we are trying to ‘out-China’ China. We became the strongest economy in the world through our freedom, not our central management.

“We should partner universities with private businesses to spark innovation, increase our own development of critical minerals, aggressively negotiate trade agreements around the world and isolate Chinese companies for their clear human rights violations.”

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

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