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Senate postpones chips bill vote due to severe thunderstorms

A technologist examines a computer chip.

Sefa Ozel | Getty Images

Severe weather could delay the Senate’s push to quickly pass funding to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing and boost U.S. competitiveness with China, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday.

The bill is expected to clear a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday night, with a final vote expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.

But Schumer announced on the Senate floor Monday night that he would postpone the vote until Tuesday morning. He cited “several severe thunderstorms on the East Coast” that “disrupted the travel plans of many senators.”

The so-called cloture vote to break the legislative filibuster is expected at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

“I remain hopeful that we can stay on track to get this legislation done ASAP,” Schumer said.

The package, known as “CHIPS-plus,” includes roughly $52 billion in funding for US companies that make computer chips and a provision that offers a tax credit for investment in chip manufacturing. It also provides funding to encourage innovation and development of other technologies in the US.

If it passes the Senate as expected, the House will then take up the legislation. Supporters of the bill hope to pass it in Congress and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature before the August recess, which begins in two weeks.

The legislation, advocates say, is vital to U.S. economic and national security interests in a world increasingly dependent on technological progress. They also argued that the bill would help counter the effects of a global chip shortage caused by Covid, and put the US in a more competitive position with China, which is investing heavily in its own manufacturing capabilities. a chip.

“America invented the semiconductor. It’s time to bring it home,” Biden said during a meeting at the White House on Monday afternoon. The president, who tested positive for Covid last week, attended the meeting virtually.

The legislation will “enhance our nation’s competitiveness and our technological edge,” Biden said, urging Congress to “pass this bill as soon as possible.”

CHIPS-plus is a pared-down version of broader legislation that has been brewing in the House and Senate for some time. A larger measure was threatened from the Republican leadership earlier this month.

The slimmer bill passed an early procedural motion last week in a bipartisan 64-34 vote. A cloture vote previously scheduled for Monday is expected to clear.

The votes come as Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.V., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, both announced Monday that they tested positive for Covid. Both senators said they will work remotely and follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

Their diagnoses are not expected to disrupt the Senate’s efforts to pass CHIPS-plus, but could hinder other legislative goals of Democrats before the August recess.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, wants Congress to act now.

In Monday’s meeting with Biden, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned of multiple national security risks “that we face right now, right now,” due to supply-chain vulnerabilities exacerbated by the pandemic.

America’s continued reliance on overseas semiconductor producers is “flat-out dangerous, and disruption of our chip supply would be catastrophic,” Sullivan said. “The longer we wait, the more dangerous the disruption.”

Executives from Lockheed Martin, jet-engine maker Cummins and medical device maker Medtronic echoed national security arguments during the meeting.

Chris Shelton of the major labor union Communications Workers of America told Biden, “There is no question that we need a comprehensive approach to compete and to take down China’s unfair trade practices.”

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