Scoop: Schumer's CHIPS Act gambit
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) summoned a dozen Senate Democrats to his office last week with firm marching orders: Call your closest CEOs and ask them to press Republican senators on the China competition bill.
Why it matters: Schumer is trying to engineer an inside-outside pressure campaign to force Republicans to move faster on hammering out their differences with the House by mid-July.
- Congressional Democrats and top Biden officials are getting nervous that legislation to provide approximately $50 billion to produce semiconductors domestically — as well as more than $100 billion for technology investments by the National Science Foundation — could wither on the vine.
What they're saying: "We must act urgently to pass this bill,” Schumer told Axios in a statement. "Other countries around the globe have mimicked our legislation and are making major investments in innovation and chip production."
- "If we don't act quickly we could lose tens of thousands of good-paying jobs to Europe," he said.
Driving the news: Schumer huddled with some 13 Democratic conferees last Thursday to urge them to accelerate the negotiations — and get them to commit to calling 10 big-name CEOs to enlist their support in persuading Republicans.
- Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met two weeks ago to discuss the bill. Negotiations have continued at the staff level, with policy directors meeting on Monday.
- Republicans are demanding the House essentially accept the Senate version of the bill, which they say already represents a bipartisan compromise.
- Last week, Democrats agreed to drop some of the more contentious House provisions — including the SAFE Banking Act, which would make it easier for cannabis business access to banking, and some of the more controversial climate provisions.
The big picture: The White House sees some version of the China competition bill — which has been known at various points as the Endless Frontiers Act, the COMPETES Act and USICA — as one of the president's last chances to pass a major bipartisan bill this year.
- Congress came together last year on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and has recently found some common ground on Ukraine aid and gun legislation.
- The Biden administration has enlisted former Trump officials to help make the national security case for the bill and dispatched Cabinet officials across the country to build public support.
What we're watching: Big business is getting impatient with the political deadlock, meaning CEOs may not need much prodding to start dialing GOP senators.
- Last week, Intel warned that construction on its planned $20 billion Ohio chip factory could be delayed if Congress doesn’t pass some version of a China competition bill.
- A Taiwanese minister also warned this week that the pace of construction on a $12 billion factory in Arizona being built by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company — the world's most valuable chips company — depends on Congress passing federal subsidies.
Go deeper: There's some discussion about trimming down the bill and just passing the billions in new money for semiconductors and the National Science Foundation.
- “Two years ago the Senate passed legislation to advance domestic production of semiconductors — a blueprint that was copied by countries all over the world," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told Axios.
- "It will be a monumental mistake if Congress fails to wrap these negotiations ASAP and get this vital funding out the door," he said.