INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Sen. Todd Young was feeling it at the Kosciusko County Republican Lincoln Dinner, so much so that he coaxed the crowd into doing a stadium-style wave. “I’m in front of, what I perceive to be, the most motivated, the most energized, the most fired-up group of Republicans I’ve visited with since this COVID pandemic descended upon our country. Folks, we are fired up!” the Warsaw Times-Union quoted the senator.
He had reason to be jubilant. Five days later, the U.S. Senate passed the Endless Frontier Act that he sponsored with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 68-32. The New York Times calls it “the most expansive industrial policy legislation in U.S. history, blowing past partisan divisions over government support for private industry to embrace a nearly quarter-trillion-dollar investment in building up America’s manufacturing and technological edge.”
It is Young’s most important piece of legislation since joining Congress in 2011 and the Senate in 2017.
The vote came as in and around Indiana, tens of thousands of brand new Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet pickup trucks and Subaru crossovers have been filling up parking lots in Fort Wayne, Hegewisch, Louisville and Lafayette due to a semiconductor chip is inserted. The U.S. accounts for a mere 12% of microchip production, with the other 88% manufactured in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Kokomo Tribune reports that the pandemic-fueled chip shortage started when consumer demand soared for more vehicles as people looked to avoid using public transportation and began buying up a number of computer devices.
The Endless Frontier Act proposes an expansion of the National Science Foundation with the establishment of a new Technology and Innovation Directorate within NSF to advance research and development in 10 key technology focus areas, including artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology and advanced energy. According to Schumer and Young, the newly established Technology and Innovation Directorate would receive $100 billion over five years to invest in basic and advanced research, commercialization, and education and training programs in technology areas critical to national leadership.
The act also establishes a new Supply Chain Resiliency and Crisis Response Program with the national security mission of strengthening critical technology supply chains in the U.S. and with global allies and partners. Additionally, the bill invests in U.S. manufacturing innovation and competitiveness with more than $2.4 billion in funding to enhance and expand the Manufacturing USA network.
“We have attracted bipartisan support for this piece of legislation,” Young said. “The Endless Frontier Act makes a much-needed investment in emerging technologies like advanced manufacturing. Things like artificial intelligence and quantum computing and robotics we know will not only help our workers grow our economy so we can out innovate and out compete the Chinese, but will also help our warfighters win the wars of the future.
“The Chinese Communist Party wants to surpass the United States economically, and spread their authoritarian values across the globe,” Young continued. “They are doing this in part by investing heavily in the endless frontier. It’s time to go on offense. That’s why I authored the Endless Frontier Act. My Endless Frontier Act is going to help Hoosiers supercharge our economy in the 21st Century.”
Inside Indiana Business reported that Conexus said that one-third of the state’s gross domestic product and 500,000 jobs are directly linked to advanced manufacturing, including automotive, medical devices, and aerospace and defense, all of which rely on semiconductors.
While it received bipartisan support in the Senate and faces “very strong” passage prospects in the House, it was opposed by most of the Republicans senators positioning for the 2024 presidential race (i.e. Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott).
Also voting against it was Young’s Indiana colleague, Mike Braun. A source close to him explained, “Sen. Braun believes red ink is going to do us in faster than Red China. So while he agrees the U.S. must stay competitive in science and tech innovation, we cannot do it through hundreds of billions in deficit spending without offsets.”
Young was asked why in a Zoom call with Indiana reporters on Wednesday. “It’s really interesting because the idea for this legislation emerged during the Trump era. I worked with the Trump administration on some of the early draft provisions,” Young said. “If that memorandum wasn’t broadly circulated, perhaps it will come as a surprise for those who voted nay and they may want to vote differently on the final package. I am unclear as to exactly why.”
Asked whether he believes President Biden would sign the bill, Young said he has had “limited and intermittent dialogue with the White House, and added, “Candidly, that’s been quite helpful. If the president spends a lot of time discussing a particular issue, especially in this tribalized, highly-politicized atmosphere, that can undermine support. It’s been helpful that in this has been in the main, this legislation has been under the radar.”
Young enters this stage of his career after defeating four former members of Congress on his way to Congress, topping it with his victory over former senator Evan Bayh in 2016. So far, there isn’t a well-known Democrat poised for a challenge when he is up for reelection next year.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.