The U.S. 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 a range of issues, including Iran policy.
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.
With Democrats narrowly controlling the House of Representatives and Senate, Republicans used debate on the bill to offer motions weighing in on President Joe Biden’s efforts to return to the international nuclear deal with Iran, passing them with support from some Democrats.
Republicans unanimously opposed the 2015 nuclear deal.
In one of an expected 28 votes, senators voted 62-33 for a “Motion to Instruct” that, if it became law, would bar the Biden administration from lifting the terrorist designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, an obstacle to reviving the nuclear pact.
The Senate also voted 86-12 for a saying terrorism-related sanctions on Iran are necessary to limit cooperation between China and Iran.
Such provisions could complicate delicate negotiations on the nuclear deal, although western officials have largely lost hope that the pact can be resurrected after then-Republican President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018.
They also could make it more difficult to pass the China competition bill, which has been working its way through Congress for the 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.
The House passed its version, the “America COMPETES Act of 2022,” in 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 months of negotiations.
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