Jan 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

House unveils a sprawling tech bill

President Biden speaks during a CEO Summit on Semiconductor and Supply Chain Resilience via video conference

Biden speaks during a CEO conference on semiconductor and supply chain resilience. Photo: Amr Alfiky/Getty Images

The House has introduced its own version of a sprawling $250 billion tech bill that the Biden administration is counting on to address supply chain and chip shortage problems and strengthen U.S. technology and research.

Why it matters: Having made little headway with other key initiatives like the Build Back Better plan, Democrats are looking to iron out differences over this technology spending measure and rake up a legislative win. But they have a long way to go.

Details: The bill, named the America Competes Act, includes $52 billion to encourage more semiconductor production in the U.S. and $45 billion for grants and loans to improve supply chain resilience and manufacturing, among other programs.

  • It also includes funding to address social and economic inequality, climate change, and immigration.
  • For instance, it provides an exemption for STEM Ph.D.'s from the green card cap and creates a new green card for entrepreneurs.
  • The bill also authorizes $600 million a year to construct manufacturing facilities to make the U.S. less reliant on solar components made in Xinjiang.

Yes, but: Even though the Senate version — the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act — passed last year with considerable bipartisan support, it's unclear if the House bill would get enough votes from Republicans, who seemed to be caught by surprise when it was released Tuesday night.

What they're saying: "We have been in talks with House and Senate committees of jurisdiction for weeks, trying to put together a bipartisan bill that could pass Congress," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Axios.

  • "Rather than allowing those talks to play out, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and House Democrats have decided to torpedo the chance of a bipartisan, bicameral bill."
  • "Instead of focusing on strong consensus policies, she’s filled her package with poison pills with no bipartisan support," Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee, told Axios.

The other side: Pelosi "has been able to get the caucus behind it, committee chairs behind it, and to do so in a way that preserves the ability to keep over sixty senators," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Axios. "It'll have some differences from the Senate, but I'm confident it'll be reconciled."

  • “I am pleased to see bipartisan, bicameral support for fully funding the $52 billion needed to implement the CHIPS Act and reassert American leadership in the strategically important semiconductor industry," Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) told Axios.
  • "This funding will help lower the cost of consumer goods, create new jobs, and increase national security," Matsui added. "It should be passed as soon as possible."

Be smart: The Department of Commerce took an important first step in collecting feedback from semiconductor companies on the support they would need to implement this legislation.

  • Five core bicameral and bipartisan offices — those of Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Matsui, McCaul, Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — were briefed by the Department of Commerce on Jan. 14 about the notice that went live yesterday.
  • The fragility of the U.S. semiconductor supply chain has left companies with just a five-day supply, according to a Commerce Department survey of semiconductor suppliers and major businesses.
  • Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in statement: "This is an issue with bipartisan support and I look forward to doing what I can to get this bill to the President’s desk. Today's bill introduction brings us one step closer to getting the job done."
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