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OPINION | COLUMNIST: Searching for the details

by THE MERCURY NEWS | April 6, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan has a lot for the tech industry to like.

The major investments in broadband access, chip manufacturing, and basic research and development are long overdue. The bigger question is whether Congress will take the time to give the $2 trillion package the scrutiny it deserves.

Once upon a time, Congress was a place where serious discussions could be held over the merits of major legislation. Strengths and weaknesses would emerge. Negotiations, while not perfect, generally resulted in improvements.

Fast forward to today. Biden has pledged to invite Republicans to the White House to discuss his infrastructure proposal. But those meetings are likely just for show. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell already has announced his opposition to the plan. So it largely will fall to Democrats to study the details and determine the ultimate fate.

Careful scrutiny is in order. The plan specifies how much money would be allocated for various programs. But it's vague on project priorities and timetables for completion.

As the president said, the United States is one of few major economies whose public investments in research and development in the past 25 years have declined as a percentage of gross domestic product.

Biden wants to commit $180 billion for R&D. That includes $50 billion for the National Science Foundation to advance computing, biotech and energy programs.

The Biden administration has said that the president's proposal is the "beginning of a conversation with Congress and the American people." Congress needs to clarify the specifics of the proposal before any vote to make the plan a reality.

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