A bill designed to encourage more semiconductor companies to build chip plants in the United States passed the Senate Wednesday as lawmakers scrambled to finish work on a key priority of the Biden administration.
The $280 billion measure, which awaits a House vote, includes federal grants and tax breaks for companies that build their chip facilities in the U.S. The legislation also directs Congress to significantly increase spending on high-tech research that lawmakers say will help the country stay economically competitive for decades to come.
Senate approval came by a vote of 64-33. The House vote is expected later this week as lawmakers try to wrap up business before returning to their home states and districts in August.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she is confident there is enough Republican support to overcome potential defections from Democrats who see the subsidy effort to boost semiconductor companies as a priority. out of place.
Seventeen Republicans voted in favor of the measure. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., broke ranks with Democrats by voting against the bill.
Proponents of the legislation say other countries are spending billions of dollars to attract chipmakers. Supporters say the US must do the same or risk losing a secure supply of the semiconductors that power cars, computers, home appliances and some of the military’s most advanced weapons systems.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN. Y., said the bill represented one of the country’s largest investments in science and manufacturing in decades and that with the Senate’s approval, “we say America’s best years are ahead.”
Opponents have criticized the price of the bill. It is projected to increase federal deficits by about $79 billion over 10 years.
President Joe Biden said the bill would create jobs and lower costs across a wide range of products, from cars to dishwashers.
“For decades some ‘experts’ said we had to give up manufacturing in America. I never believed that. Manufacturing jobs are back,” Biden said. “Thanks to this bill, we are going to have even more of them. The House must pass it immediately and send this bill to my desk.”
The bill has been in the works for years, beginning with efforts by Schumer and Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, to increase government investment in high-tech research and development. While the bill has had several twists and turns, a constant theme lawmakers repeatedly emphasized during Wednesday’s debate was the need to keep up with China’s massive investments in cutting-edge technology.
China’s government plans to “win the (artificial intelligence) race, win future wars, and win the future,” Young said. “And the truth is, if we’re honest with ourselves, Beijing is well on its way to achieving these goals.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said, “Unfortunately, we’re not in the driver’s seat on a number of important technologies. China is.” Congress, he said, now has “an opportunity to move us back in the right direction and put America back in a place to win the game.”
The bill provides more than $52 billion in grants and other incentives for the semiconductor industry, as well as a 25% tax credit for those companies that invest in chip plants in the US. It calls for spending around $200 billion for various research activities over 10 years, though Congress will have to continue to include that money in future spending bills.
The House could take up the bill as soon as Thursday.
While most Republicans are expected to oppose it, some of the highest-ranking Republicans on committees dealing with homeland security — Representatives Michael McCaul of Texas, Michael Turner of Ohio and John Katko of New York — support measure. So are many of the Republicans in a bipartisan group called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is made up of moderates from both parties.