Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas is praising the passage this week of two bipartisan bills that he said would allow the United States to maintain an edge over China in scientific research and development.
Representative Lucas, (R) OK-3, is the top Republican on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, a veteran of the Hill who believes there’s still a place for responsible legislating. He said these bills are proof of that.
"We actually worked together," said Rep. Lucas, with emphasis on the word "together", "to deal with an issue that will determine the future economically of the United States and our ability to compete with our great adversary, which in essence is the Chinese communist party right now."
Lucas said the stakes are very high and that it is critical that the U.S. keep pace with its industrial rivals, especially China.
"It’s become quite obvious, I think, to everyone that the Chinese, our great military and economic adversary, are spending tremendous amounts of money on research," explained Lucas, "to try and get economically and militarily ahead of us."
The two bills, H.R. 2225, the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, and H.R. 3593, the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act, both passed Monday with strong bipartisan support. H.R. 2225 would provide $78 billion over five years to the National Science Foundation for research. H.R. 3593 would provide nearly $50 billion to the Department of Energy for research.
"We are doubling what we’re going to spend over the next five years," Lucas said in an interview Wednesday morning. "We’re doing it in a way that the scientific community can absorb this, and it’s the kind of research that doesn’t necessarily develop products, but it provides the sort of background and understanding that industry takes and turns into something, both civilian and otherwise."
About a third of Republicans voted against the two bills, including Rep. Kevin Hern, (R) OK-1. Hern said his promise to constituents and businesses was to work to shrink the footprint of the federal government and this would do the opposite. He said there have to be limits on federal spending.
"I think American businesses ought to be doing more of the R&D," stated Hern in an interview Tuesday, "not the American government--the federal government."
Congressman Lucas said he's also concerned about federal spending and the size of the national debt, "but on this occasion," said Lucas, "we were making an investment to try and keep America’s scientific and technological edge. If we ever lose that -- if we ever let somebody like the Chinese communist party and their infrastructure get the lead on us, then the cost of catching up will be beyond imagination, and it might not be possible."
Rep. Lucas isn’t sure what will happen with the bills in the Senate, where members passed even larger and more sweeping anti-China technology legislation three weeks ago, but he’s optimistic that, in some form, the bills will make it to President Biden’s desk.