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Semiconductor investments not coming quickly enough for some lawmakers and White House

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) – Semiconductor chips play a critical role in just about every big-ticket item you own, serving as the brain of your electronics. All your smart electronics rely on them, and so do most new cars.

Government officials also say semiconductors are critical for national defense. That is why there’s growing concern in Washington that the U.S. dependence on foreign semiconductor production is posing a major economic and security threat.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) are pushing their House counterparts to pass a bill authorizing funding they say will help increase American semiconductor chip production.

Cornyn said, “We have great bicameral, bipartisan and executive branch consensus on the importance of getting this done.”

Warner said, “If we don’t make this investment, no more of these facilities, manufacturing facilities, will be built in America. If we want to stand up against the Communist Party in China, we’ve got to make that… we’ve got to make that happen.”

The Senate passed the necessary funding for the titled Chips for America Act, which is inside an innovation and competition investment package (United States Innovation and Competition Act, or USICA), this summer with a bipartisan group of 68 senators voting for it. However, it stalled in the House over lawmaker disagreements on whether to vote on what the Senate passed or write a House version.

The bill would unlock $54 billion to incentivize U.S. semiconductor production and research. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, just 12 percent of semiconductors are made in the U.S, down from 37 percent in 1990.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo recently highlighted the seriousness of the semiconductor chip shortage and called on the House to send legislation to the president’s desk.

During a White House press briefing, Raimondo said, “The lack of domestic production in America of semiconductors poses not only an economic threat, a national security threat and we need Congress the House to pass the CHIPS Act, or USICA, as quickly as possible, so that we can get to the business of making more chips in America.”

This week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement the two chambers will go to a conference committee to iron out their differences over the legislative package. No exact timeline was given, but the statement said, “…The House and Senate will immediately begin a bipartisan process of reconciling the two chambers’ legislative proposals so that we can deliver a final piece of legislation to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

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