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Moves to Advance $52 Billion Chips Funding Bill by US Senate

A class photo of the 111th United States Senate - U.S. Senate, 111th Congress, Senate Photo Studio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Andrew Thornebrooke | New Tang Dynasty

The U.S. Senate voted to advance its Chips and Science Bill on July 26, which is aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor production and improving technological competitiveness with China.

The Senate voted to limit debate on the so-called “Chips and Science Bill,” in a 64-32 vote. It will now head to a vote and is likely to be passed by the Senate, and then move to the House for a vote before going to the President’s desk for signature.

The bill is a compromise version of two bills that members of Congress have been working on for more than a year. It will provide funding to spur domestic semiconductor production.

“This morning, the Senate will draw a clear line in the sand that America’s chip crisis and America’s dwindling commitment to science and innovation will not continue under our watch,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the Senate floor prior to the cloture vote.

“It’s a major step for our economic security, our national security, our supply chains, and, in fact, for America’s future.”

It is believed Congress will act swiftly in order to pass the bill before adjourning for its annual August recess.

Semiconductors, which are used in the production of everything from personal computers to hypersonic missiles, have become a key point of anxiety in the past two years as a global supply chain crisis has wreaked havoc on the United States’ ability to obtain the chips.

If passed by the House, the legislation will provide $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturing to help re-shore the development of vital technology. It will also spend billions more to stimulate research and development on associated technologies.

Congress passed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act in January 2021. Since then, however, Democrats and Republicans have failed to reach an agreement on how to appropriate funding for the initiative, with Republicans pushing for new corporate tax credits and Democrats pushing for green energy and research funding to be included.

That stalemate led to the creation of two stalled bills, the Republican-backed Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the Democrat-backed America COMPETES Act, which have now been combined into the Chips and Science Bill.

Schumer said that the current Chips and Science Bill would retain a majority of the funding initially called for in USICA, though it was unclear to what extent tax breaks and “green” research initiatives were still included.

Not everyone was happy with the bill, however, and the legislation has had the effect of uniting elements from both sides of the aisle against what they allege as corporatism. Notably, both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) lambasted the bill as corporate welfare that would needlessly prop up big tech corporations and hurt working Americans.

Schumer said that the version of the bill currently being advanced contained the majority of science and innovation measures passed in USICA, including investments into scientific research.

“I am confident that future generations will look back on the passage of this chips and science bill as a turning point for American leadership in the 21st century,” Schumer said.

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