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House passes bill to support microchip production, supply chains

The bill aims to boost America’s competitiveness with China.
Image: Semiconductor production
An employee works at a semiconductor manufacturer in Binzhou in east China's Shandong province, on Jan. 9, 2022.Chu Baorui / FeatureChina via AP file

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Friday that aims to revitalize U.S. research, innovation and manufacturing sectors, including microchip production, in an effort to boost America’s competitiveness with China.

Lawmakers approved the measure in a 222-210 vote, with nearly all Republicans voting against it.

The America Competes Act, a nearly 3,000-page bill, seeks to address microchip shortages and supply chain backlogs by providing $52 billion in grants and subsidies to help the semiconductor industry and $45 billion to enhance supply chains for high-tech products. It also would allot $8 billion for the United Nations' Green Climate Fund, which aims to help poorer countries contend with climate change.

In a statement Friday, President Joe Biden applauded Democratic leaders for their work on the bill, which he said has garnered praise from labor groups and national security leaders from both parties.

"This bill was built on numerous bipartisan elements and on shared bipartisan agreement on the need to act," Biden said. "If House Republicans are serious about lowering prices, making our economy stronger, and competing with China from a position of strength, then they should come to the table and support this legislation, which does just that."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that the bill would bolster U.S. interests and values on the world stage.

She told reporters at a press briefing touting the bill that it seeks to hold China "accountable for genocide and using slave labor."

"This is not just a values issue. In terms of human rights," she said. "This is a competition issue, making our workers in our country compete with slave labor."

The legislation would lower costs by allowing the U.S. to produce chips, which would limit sourcing them from abroad, Pelosi added.

Earlier in the week, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo called on House Democrats to pass the bill.

“We have no time to wait. This is a historic investment in American manufacturing, American research and development in emerging technology and just cannot wait any longer,” Raimondo said in an interview Wednesday.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill with bipartisan support, but House Republican leaders are telling their members to oppose it.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., called the legislation “a massive messaging bill that prioritizes Democrats’ radical socialist agenda and ignores the serious challenges our country is facing.”

America’s share of semiconductor manufacturing globally has steadily eroded from 37 percent in 1990 to about 12 percent now.

The bill also includes $3 billion aimed at making the U.S. less reliant on Chinese solar components; $4 billion to help communities suffering from high unemployment; and $10.5 billion for states to stockpile drugs and medical equipment.

A main point of contention is the $8 billion provision for developing countries to reduce emissions and cope with climate change. Former President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion toward the fund, but Donald Trump withheld $2 billion of that after taking office.

Republican lawmakers have also objected to how trade concerns are addressed in the bill, which includes provisions to aid American workers whose jobs are affected by Chinese competition, but not language giving Congress the ability to reject or amend trade agreements, known as trade protection authority.

Tensions with China are reflected in much of the legislation. In a nod to concerns about the origins of Covid, the bill directs Biden to submit a report to Congress on the most likely origin of the virus and the level of confidence in that assessment.