Apr 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Biden to push Congress on competition bill

President Biden is seen speaking in Iowa on Tuesday.
President Biden in Menlo, Iowa, on Tuesday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Biden is planning to pressure Congress to pass an innovation and competition bill that would boost the semiconductor industry, among others, when he travels to Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The administration knows voters want to see it taking action on inflation and supply-chain issues. It’s especially cognizant of the effect raising food and gas prices are having on voters’ pocketbooks in the buildup to this fall's midterms.

  • Recent international sanctions on Russia have shown how any country that’s too reliant on one export — energy exports, in Moscow's case — can be hurt economically.
  • The bill is meant to increase U.S. competition globally but especially with China.
  • The trip to North Carolina comes after a visit by the president on Tuesday to Menlo, Iowa, where he discussed a plan to lower gas prices in part by granting a waiver to use cheaper ethanol fuel into this summer.

The details: The full force of the administration will be behind the innovation and competition effort.

Cabinet members will be fanning out across the country and airwaves in the upcoming days and weeks to campaign for the bill.

  • Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is traveling to Los Angeles on April 19-21, and to northeast Ohio on April 29, Axios has learned.
  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will join Walsh on April 21 at a cleantech incubator in Los Angeles.
  • Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who's been sidelined after a COVID-19 diagnosis, will be holding regional press calls in states like Texas, Pennsylvania, Utah and Idaho. She's played an active role in shepherding the bill through Congress.

That travel and outreach will follow a visit to Oregon on Wednesday by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, during which she talked about the innovation bill.

  • On Thursday, the president will tour the new Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research & Innovation Complex at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The big picture: The bill proposes investments in research and development and advanced manufacturing. Passing it, though, has been an arduous process.

In June, 19 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the United States Innovation and Competition Act [USICA], raising the prospect of an easy bipartisan victory for Biden.

  • But after the House debated its version of the bill, the COMPETES Act, Republican support slipped away.
  • Now, 107 Democrats and Republicans between the House and Senate are working out the differences between the two bills in conference committee.
  • The goal is to reach a bipartisan agreement that can be forwarded to Biden for his signature.
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