The House of Representatives is set to begin floor debate on Wednesday on its own version of innovation and competition legislation that may pair up with the Senate’s existing United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

The House unveiled the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (COMPETES) last week, which includes $52 billion to fully fund the CHIPS Act, $45 billion for supply chain resiliency, creation of a new National Science Foundation (NSF) tech-focused directorate, and regulations on cryptocurrency.

“The proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in our industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century and expand opportunity for middle-class families,” President Biden said after the House legislation was unveiled.

“They’ll help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and they’re squarely focused on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class,” Biden added.

In addition to the semiconductor and supply chain resiliency money, the House bill includes funding for the creation of a Science and Engineering Solutions directorate at NSF – funded at $40 million per year during fiscal years 2022-2026 – as well as a substantial increase in research and development funding at NSF, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and research institutions across the country.

Regulating Crypto Transactions

The House bill also includes legislative language to increase regulation of cryptocurrencies through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The bill would give the Secretary of Treasury the right to place prohibitions or conditions on certain transfers of cryptocurrency if one or more of the institutions involved lies outside of the United States, and the transaction is believed to pose concerns about money laundering.

The bill cites the increased use of cryptocurrency as the medium of exchange for payoffs in ransomware attacks, as well as China’s alleged role in ransomware attacks.

“Ransomware attacks on U.S. companies requiring payments in cryptocurrencies have increased in recent years, with the U.S. Treasury estimating that ransomware payments in the United States reached $590 million in just the first half of 2021, compared to a total of $416 million in 2020,” the legislation says.

“As ransomware attacks organized by Chinese and other foreign bad actors continue to grow in size and scope, modernizing FinCEN’s special measure authorities will empower FinCEN to adapt its existing tools, monitor and obstruct global financial threats, and meet the challenges of combating 21st-century financial crime,” the legislation adds.

Next up

The House Rules Committee is set to take up the COMPETES legislation Feb. 1 to decide the parameters for debate, as well as which of the amendments filed by the Jan. 28 deadline will receive floor consideration.

Should the bill pass the House, the next step would then be to set up a conference to work out the differences between America COMPETES and USICA.

One such difference will be the huge gap in funding levels for a new NSF directorate. USICA creates and funds an NSF Directorate of Technology and Innovation at $52 billion, while COMPETES includes $200 million in total funding for the creation of the SES directorate.

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