Schmitt files bills to boost U.S. in space race with China, create national website for those with intellectual disabilities

Two of his new Senate bills show Eric Schmitt has his feet firmly planted on the ground while looking to the skies.

The Missouri senator has recently filed an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill to expand U.S. cooperation with Taiwan in the space race with China, and another stand-alone bill to establish a federal website to help people with intellectual disabilities. The latter was co-filed with Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia.

Why should Americans care about cooperating with Taiwan in space?

“Well, I think you have to look at it under the lens of, we’re in this great powers competition between the United States and China that will define the 21st century,” Schmitt said in an exclusive interview with The Heartlander Thursday.  

“China has designs on world domination. Taiwan is nearby. It’s possible China could try to invade Taiwan. And I think right now we don’t have a lot of cooperative efforts with them as relates to space or aerospace or aviation. This would just open that up. This would allow NASA to coordinate with their equivalent agency in Taiwan to support both countries.”

Schmitt further explained in a press release:

“Cooperation in space with a strategic partner such as Taiwan is undoubtedly a net-positive for the United States. The Taiwan and America Space Assistance Act expands our cooperation with a vital ally and allows for advancements and research in space with Taiwan’s growing space program. Empowering our allies through partnerships such as this ensures America remains the global leader in space and puts us in a better position in the new space race with China.”

But competing with an aggressive adversary such as China isn’t the entire rationale for the bill, he says.

“Also, we can learn from [Taiwan] and they can learn from us. And again, we don’t really know what China might do, but this is the kind of level of cooperation in space that we ought to be doing with more countries, including Taiwan.”

The Taiwan and America Space Assistance (TASA) Act would, according to Schmitt’s office:

  • Allow for extended cooperation between the Taiwan Space Agency and NASA
  • Allow for extended cooperation between the Taiwan Space Agency and NOAA
  • Provide an avenue for the voluntary exchange of personnel from NASA and NOAA to the Taiwan Space Agency to further advance Taiwan’s space capabilities. 
  • Extend cooperation in areas of satellite program development, space exploration, as well as atmospheric and weather programs.

As for a website to help people with intellectual disabilities, that’s intensely personal for Schmitt. His oldest of three children has a rare genetic condition causing tumors on his organs, and has epilepsy as well as being on the autism spectrum.

“As a dad of a son with disabilities, I know how challenging it can be to figure out what resources are out there, what help could be out there, or peer groups or those sorts of things,” Schmitt tells The Heartlander. 

“What this would do is create a kind of one-stop shop for individuals with disabilities or their families. It’s as simple as searching by way of ZIP code to find out what resources are out there. Particularly in rural Missouri, it could even be more challenging, right? 

“I think people are surprised to know that doesn’t exist. And so, this is a bipartisan effort to try to create one.”

Why is the government better situated than the private sector to create such a database?

“Because there are already a bunch of agencies doing things, whether it’s federal, state or local government agencies that do provide services, I think the federal government can sort of collate that right now.”

Schmitt adds that “I would welcome the private sector to do this, too, the private service providers,” but that it will take the government to get its arms around the problem and all the existing resources that reside just inside the behemoth of the bureaucracy  

“Those with disabilities deserve the best care possible, and many families of those with an intellectual disability aren’t aware of the resources that are available to them,” Schmitt said in a press release. “My son, Stephen, has disabilities and was my driving force for running for public office in the first place. A website like this would vastly benefit so many. I am proud to sponsor this bill alongside Senator Ossoff.”

Schmitt’s “Think Differently Database Act” would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a website featuring:

  • Federal and state resources available for those with intellectual disabilities.
  • Resources that connect individuals, families, and caregivers with healthcare, mental health, and other community-based services within state Medicaid programs.
  • A zip code feature that helps individuals locate resources in their community.

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