Thursday, March 30, 2023

Congress seeks agreement to boost computer chip industry

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — A global computer chip shortage has made it harder for consumers to get cars, computers and other modern necessities, so Congress is looking to boost chip manufacturing and research in the United States with billions of dollars. federal government.

Both the House and Senate have passed major legislation on the matter and the effort is one of lawmakers’ last opportunities ahead of November’s election to show voters they are addressing the nation’s strained supply chains.

Now they have to work on the difference between the two bills. And Senate Republicans are already digging in before the talks formally begin.

President Joe Biden has made semiconductor legislation a top priority, but he would need the support of 10 Senate Republicans and probably more to get the bill on his desk. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell emphasized that point when congressional leaders recently announced which lawmakers would serve on the committee that works to reconcile the two bills.

“Without major concessions and changes from House Democrats, this law has no chance of becoming law,” McConnell said.

House Democrats say their voices should be heard during the talks.

“We need to make sure everyone has input,” said Rep. Suzanne DelBene, D-Wash., president of the New Democratic Coalition, a group that has 19 members participating in the talks. “We have a strong bill in the House, and I think there are important components that the Senate should consider as well.”

where things stand

House and Senate leaders select lawmakers to join a committee to merge the two bills into one.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi elected Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, 49 Democrats and a Republican, to be the only GOP member to vote for the House bill. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy selected 31 Republicans to the committee.

McConnell and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer chose 13 senators.

The House approves its participants, while the Senate still has to do some procedural work before it can do so.

The Senate bill is projected to cost about $250 billion over 10 years. The House bill would boost spending by more than $400 billion over the period.

where there’s a lot of compromise

Senate and House bills allocate more than $52 billion for semiconductor production and research. Grants and loans from the federal government would subsidize some of the cost of building or refurbishing semiconductor plants.

“CHIPS funding is absolutely the foundation of this bill — it is a bipartisan foundation,” said Josh Teitelbaum, senior attorney for Akin Gump, a law and lobbying firm. “I think this is what’s driving it to the finish line.”

Some overlap, but major differences

Both bills provide a major boost in spending for the National Science Foundation, but they have different priorities for obtaining funding for research.

The Senate bill provides $29 billion over five years to a new directorate focused on strengthening American leadership in artificial intelligence, semiconductors, robotics and other cutting-edge technologies.

The House bill provides $13.3 billion over five years to a new Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions. It lists climate change, environmental sustainability and social and economic inequality as part of the directorate’s focus.

Both sides will have to advance their competitive approach to the National Science Foundation and the new Technical Directorate.

The two bills also establish regional technology centers — the Senate dedicated $10 billion to the program and the House $7 billion. Senate bill calls for 20 such hubs, while House bill authorizes at least 10.

Funding will go to regional organizations to advance a variety of economic and national security priorities.

This approach has bipartisan support from lawmakers with large rural and minority constituencies, who want to ensure that money is not concentrated in universities or communities where a lot of technical research has already been done.

where are the major differences

Bills vary on supply chain issues, trade, immigration and climate change, to name a few areas of disagreement.

One of the big-ticket items in the House bill is a $45 billion program to enhance the supply chain in the US. The Senate bill had no such provision. The money will provide grants, loans or loan guarantees to companies, local governments and tribes trying to build or relocate manufacturing plants that produce critical goods.

“This is a real area of ​​focus for companies and communities that want to try to bring manufacturing back,” Teitelbaum said. “There is great interest in incorporating this funding into the final package.”

Another big difference is on business. The House reauthorizes a program that provides training and financial aid for those who lose their jobs or have their hours cut because of an increase in imports. There is no such provision in the Senate.

“This business is not going to move forward without adjustment assistance,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said of the bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate bill includes a trade provision that would exclude more products from tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on goods imported from China. Those exclusions are almost all gone. The Senate bill reinstates them, a priority of business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce.

The House bill addresses immigration, while the Senate bill does not. This will create a new visa category for entrepreneurs and allow those with ownership interest in successful enterprises to apply to become lawful permanent residents.

The House bill, unlike the Senate bill, also touches on climate change. It dedicates $8 billion to a fund that helps developing countries adjust to climate change. It may be a nonstarter for Republicans, who object to using American taxpayer money for that purpose.

No one expects the conversation to be easy.

“I have a hard time convincing my friends and constituents,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, “that when the White House is on the side of something, when the Democrats are on the side of something, the Republicans are on the side of something.” In favor of things. The House is on its side, and the Senate is on it, we still can’t get it done. But I hope we will take advantage of this opportunity.”

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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