Schumer to move on long-awaited bill to boost semiconductor industry
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to hold a vote soon on a bill to provide $52 billion to $54 billion in assistance to the domestic semiconductor manufacturing industry and a tax credit for semiconductor manufacturers, according to Senate sources.
Schumer has told senators to expect a floor vote as early as Tuesday of next week.
The slimmed-down Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America bill, intended to improve competitiveness with China, at a minimum will include emergency funding for semiconductor manufacturers and the investment tax credit from the Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors Act.
The legislation is not expected to include a package of trade provisions that Republicans insisted be attached to the Senate version of the bill that passed last year.
A source familiar with the negotiation, however, said additional pieces could be added if they are ready in time.
Some Democrats expressed disappointment that the bill is not going to be as expansive as what passed in June of 2021, but they are eager to get another legislative accomplishment after more than a year of stalemate over the legislation.
“I’m not fine with it. I don’t think I would say I can’t vote for a CHIPS bill, but if we’re going to be competitive, do we just want to be a little competitive? Why not include all these things had such strong bipartisan support and be really competitive?” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
But the big question is whether the legislation can get more than 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.
During the July 4 recess, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block the legislation if Democrats continued to work on a budget reconciliation bill that would lower drug prices and raise taxes on pass-through business income.
But on Tuesday, McConnell signaled that a narrow bill focused on domestic semiconductor manufacturers could pass.
He said the trade component — negotiated by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — added during the Senate floor debate was the “key” to passing it through the upper chamber last year.
“Seem to me there are a couple of ways out of this, potentially. There is the possibility of the House simply taking the Senate bill and passing it,” McConnell told reporters.
“Or there is a widespread concern on a bipartisan basis on the CHIPS portion of [the bill.] Another option would be to spin off the CHIPS part of it and pass it,” he said.
McConnell said there are members of the Senate GOP conference who believe it’s important for national security to bolster the domestic chip manufacturing industry.
But McConnell’s top deputies, Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), on Thursday raised doubts about whether a spun-off CHIPS bill could muster enough Republican support to pass the Senate next week.
Cornyn said he would not vote for it.
The legislation — originally called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, then renamed the CHIPS Act — passed the Senate last year by a vote of 68 to 32.
It cost an estimated $250 billion and would have provided money for scientific research, money for robotics as well as semiconductors and $45 billion to improve supply chains for critical items.
The slimmed-down bill to help semiconductor companies would likely to need more than 10 Republican votes because Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is threatening to vote against it and could be joined by other progressives.
“We’re talking about giving $50 billion in corporate welfare with no strings attached, a blank check to the highly profitable microchip industry,” Sanders grumbled on the floor Wednesday.
“What about the deficit when it comes to giving $52 billion in corporate welfare to some of the most profitable corporations in America? I guess when you’re giving corporate welfare to big and powerful interest, the deficit no longer matters,” he added.