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Senate passes massive package to boost U.S. computer chip production

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday approved a sweeping package aimed at boosting domestic production of computer chips and helping the United States stay competitive with China.

The 64-33 vote represented a rare bipartisan victory a little more than three months before November’s crucial midterms; 17 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting yes. The package, known as “CHIPS-plus,” is now on its way to the House, which is expected to pass it by the end of the week and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“Are we on the brink of another generation of American ingenuity, of American discovery, of American leadership? By passing our chips and science bill today, the Senate is saying, ‘Yes, we are,’ and in a strong bipartisan voice,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said on the floor before the vote.

“Today, by approving one of the largest investments in science, technology and manufacturing in decades – in decades – we are saying that America’s best years are yet to come.”

The centerpiece of the package is more than $50 billion in subsidies for domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research.

Supporters on Capitol Hill, as well as key members of Biden’s Cabinet, have argued that making microchips at home — rather than relying on chipmakers in China, Taiwan and elsewhere — is vital to U.S. national security. , especially when it comes to chips used for weapons. and military equipment.

The package also includes ten billion in additional authorization for science and research programs, as well as for regional technology centers across the country.

The Congressional Budget Office said CHIPS-plus will cost nearly $80 billion over the next decade.

The final chips bill is a slimmed-down version of a broader China competitiveness package that House and Senate lawmakers negotiated. Earlier, the Senate passed the bill known as USICA, while the House passed its own version, the America COMPETES Act. But lawmakers could not resolve their differences, and leading Democrats decided to shift their strategy and reintroduce the law.

The final package closely resembles the House-passed bill, a senior House Democratic aide said.

In recent weeks, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks have toured Capitol Hill, pushing for a more narrowly chips-focused bill and arguing that failure to act in the A hot recession will put America’s national security at risk.

The global pandemic and related supply chain issues have led to chip shortages in the US, affecting businesses including car manufacturers as well as makers of smartphones and home electronics. Raimondo said 90% of the world’s most advanced chips are made in Taiwan, which faces threats from China.

“The purpose of all these currencies is to have more chips made in America,” Raimondo said in a recent appearance on CNBC. “The national security vulnerability here … is almost unique to the fact that we are so dependent on Taiwan and it is a product that is very much needed for innovation and military equipment.”

The bill’s passage marks the second time this summer that Senate Democrats and Republicans have come together to pass major bipartisan legislation as national attention turns to the midterm elections.

In June, the Senate passed the worst gun legislation designed to curb gun violence in decades after mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. This week, lawmakers responded to an economic crisis: the shortage of chips, which they say has contributed to rising inflation.

After the vote, a group of senators from both parties held a news conference and celebrated the victory.

“I am offended, not only by the content of this legislation, but in this era of tribal politics and a lot of cynicism, frankly, about our federal government,” said Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is a top GOP negotiator.

“I think we need to emphasize the importance of this moment for the institution of the United States Senate or the majority of Congress and our federal government,” he said. “We can do the hard things. We can do the really important things among all the Sturm and Drang.”

However, more than 30 Republicans voted no, including Sens Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and other rumored 2024 candidates.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is affiliated with the Democrats, also voted no, opposing the bill as a “huge corporate benefit” for the semiconductor industry.

“All deep and serious concerns about the deficit disappear when it comes to handing over a $76 billion blank check for the highly profitable microchip industry, with no protection for the American taxpayer,” he said. said Sanders on the Senate floor.

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