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House passes major computer chips and science bill to compete with China

WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday passed a massive package aimed at boosting domestic production of computer chips and keeping America competitive with China.

The vote came a day after the Senate passed the package, known as “CHIPS-plus.” It is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The bill passed 243-187, with a majority Republicans who voted no and 24 Republicans who supported their own leadership and voted for Democrats. Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., voted present.

Although 17 Senate Republicans supported the chips bill on Wednesday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., slammed their rank-and-file members to vote against it in the last 24 hours, arguing that it would funnel billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies and tax credits to a “specific industry that doesn’t need additional government handouts.”

“It’s ridiculous, out-of-control spending that we don’t have money for; it’s become a monster,” conservative Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., told NBC News before the vote.

But some influential Republicans are making the case that passing the chip package is critical for national security and taking on China.

Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee whose state is home to chipmakers, said he is close with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Biden’s point person on CHIPS who briefs lawmakers. Raimondo emphasized to members that Taiwan produces 90 percent of the world’s advanced semiconductor chips.

If China invades Taiwan, McCaul said, “they will own the global market.”

“Guess who came out today strongly opposing the chips bill? The Chinese Communist Party,” McCaul told reporters. “If you want to know who hates this bill, who is lobbying against it, the Chinese Communist Party. Why? Because they know it will help us compete against them.”

Photo: An employee works at a chip manufacturing company on April 19, 2022 in Suqian, Jiangsu Province in China.
An employee works at a chip manufacturing company on April 19, 2022 in Suqian, Jiangsu Province in China. Xu Changliang / VCG via Getty Images

The centerpiece of the package is more than $50 billion in subsidies for domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research. It also includes tens of billions of dollars more in authorizations for science and research programs, as well as for regional technology centers across the country.

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

Biden urged the House to pass the bill on Thursday, asking members to “put politics aside” and “get it done” to help the economy. “We need to lower the cost of cars, appliances, smartphones, consumer electronics and more,” he said.

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

But it’s a slimmed-down version of a larger China competitiveness bill that Congress hopes to negotiate. As it became clear that lawmakers were no closer to resolving their differences, Raimondo and other Biden administration officials urged members to find something they could pass before the month-long recess. in August, and “CHIPS-plus” was born.

Kyle Stewart contributed.

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