US Congress edges toward massive China competition bill with votes on Iran, energy

The US Congress edged closer on Wednesday toward completing a long-stalled bill authorizing hundreds of billions of dollars to boost the country's ability to compete with Chinese technology, with Senate votes on motions addressing issues including energy policy and Iran sanctions.

Although the motions are not binding, they convey a sense of what senators would like to see in the final bill and what could keep it from getting enough votes to become law.

In one of an expected 28 votes, the Senate voted 86-12 - with strong bipartisan support - for a "motion to instruct" sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz seeking a report on terrorism-related sanctions on Iran and saying such sanctions are necessary to limit cooperation between China and Iran.

If it became law, the provision could complicate delicate negotiations on the international Iran nuclear deal, although western officials have largely lost hope that the pact can be resurrected, four years after former Republican President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018. 

Another, from Republican Senator John Barrasso, related to federal oil and gas leasing, passed by 53-44.

Congress has been working on China competition legislation for more than a year. The Senate first passed a version in June 2021, with strong bipartisan support. That $250 billion bill was hailed as potentially the most significant government intervention in manufacturing in decades, but stalled in the House of Representatives. Read full story

The House did not pass its version, the "America COMPETES Act of 2022," until February 2022. Every Republican in the chamber except one voted no.

The COMPETES Act authorizes almost $300 billion for research and development, including $52 billion to subsidize semiconductor manufacturing and research.

House and Senate lawmakers will begin their conference on a final COMPETES Act after the Senate votes on all 28 Motions to Instruct.

Congressional aides expected it would take months to agree on a compromise bill.

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