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Senators are advancing a computer chips bill. They don’t know what’s in it yet.

WASHINGTON – Senators moved forward this week on a scaled -back package to boost domestic computer chip production. They just don’t know what’s in the bill yet.

The Senate on Tuesday took the first step to advance what lawmakers call “CHIPS-plus” to try to overcome the global chip shortage that affects everyone from auto manufacturers to the video game industry. The package is a slimmed-down version of a much broader competition bill in China that House and Senate negotiators have struggled with for months to reach an agreement.

Fearing that impatient chip makers will build their semiconductor fabrication plants elsewhere if they don’t act immediately, leading Democrats have made the call to shift tactics: Congress will take a more narrowly focused legislation including a $ 52 billion subsidy to chip makers, will then tackle China’s larger competition package later.

CHIPS-plus on Tuesday night eliminated its first procedural hurdle by a 64-34 vote, needing just 51 votes to advance. And key senators said they could pass the bill and send it to the House earlier this week. But they have yet to agree on what to add to it and what to shelf.

They understand because this matter is urgent. In recent days, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., Republican leaders and top officials in the Biden administration have all made the argument that passing the CHIPS package will soon be a necessity. in economic and national security as China and other countries increase production among the world. supply chain problems.

“We’ll see if members can agree to add other provisions to the bill, but the reason is that we need to create a package that will be able to pass this room without delay,” Schumer told the reporter on Tuesday after the Senate Democrats ’weekly lunch.

“We need to act as quickly as possible to make sure we get the chip back in America because the security of our country depends on it,” he added.

After holding a separate classified briefing with House and Senate lawmakers last week at the Capitol, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo warned: “It’s about national security. It’s not about politics, and we’re out of time. ”

Schumer’s GOP counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he also believes the “CHIPS thing is a national security issue with significant proportions.” However, he said he “will not vote to continue until I know what we are going through.”

“I want to see what we vote for,” McConnell said.

The No. 2 Republican leadership suggested that the authors of the bill want to measure the GOP’s appetite for the floor and make it the benchmark.

“We don’t know what the bill is. That’s the challenge now, ”Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D., told NBC News. “They’ll cobble it based on, I think, how much Republican vote it gets.”

But other senior Republicans said they are finally expected to vote for the CHIPS bill, increasing the chances that it will get the votes needed to clean up the Senate.

“It looks like we’re running out of time,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, whose state is a hub of chip makers, including Micron and Texas Instruments.

“If the right signals are not sent now, those carpenters will be established in other places around the world and not in America,” he said. “Maybe I’ll support whatever Schumer puts on the floor.”

Si Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., Co-author of the broader competition bill, said the smaller package is likely to be “CHIPS plus Endless Frontier,” referring to another technology competition bill he wrote with Schumer, worth about $ 250 billion allowed and allocated.

The young man joined a bipartisan group of a dozen senators Monday night-including Sens Kyrsten Cinema, D-Ariz., And Susan Collins, R-Maine-and said he was still working to ensure that a few pieces fit into the final package, including science and research provisions.

“It’s a breakthrough research investment, happening primarily at our research universities – here some of the world’s greatest talent live,” Young said. “And we have to use that talent, that creativity and skill to create technologies like hypersonics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, etc., and then discard the intellectual property and help drive the economy. 21st century.

“I am confident that the House will accept what we pass,” Young added.

Both the House and Senate passed their own versions of China’s larger competition bill and negotiators met to bridge their differences. But McConnell cut off talks after learning that Democrats were reviving efforts to pass a partisan reconciliation package.

A House negotiator, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said she was likely to support a smaller CHIPS bill but was disappointed with the broader negotiations ruined.

“I feel like we could have made it across the finish line if it weren’t for Mitch McConnell saying he took his ball and went home,” Escobar said in an interview Tuesday. “I’m disappointed that this is a skinny version and that it doesn’t take into account the conversations that took place during the negotiations.”

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Says the CHIPS bill is critical to reducing U.S. reliance on foreign suppliers for cars and other items.

“From you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night, we use chips,” he says. “And it’s a very important national security issue, an economic security issue.”

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