The U.S. Senate and House this week approved the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill authorizing $280 billion of spending to bolster innovation and tech hubs in America, including support for basic research and strengthening the manufacturing of semiconductors.
Lawmakers deemed it a historic investment in technology and job creation.
The legislation, which runs more than 1,000 pages, passed the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 64-33, and the House on Thursday with a vote of 243-187. The measure now moves to President Biden for approval.
Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell helped spearhead the effort.
“This is about innovation everywhere, this is about growing opportunity everywhere,” she said on the floor of the Senate before the vote was taken.
“We can’t ignore that chip production has gone overseas and that the United States has lost its share of that production,” said Cantwell, who is chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
She noted that chip shortages caused a loss of $240 billion to the U.S. economy over the last year and that the country makes roughly 12% of the world’s supply of the chips, which are essential to the production of vehicles and wide-ranging electronics. When the percentage gets too low, Cantwell said, the manufacturing ecosystem is lost.
Biden echoed some of those thoughts following the Senate vote.
“We used to make these chips. We don’t make many of them anymore. The investment now in building more factories to make these chips is going to bring down the price of everything from automobiles to everything across the board,” Biden said via a Twitter video. “But more importantly it’s going to create thousands of good paying jobs.”
The act includes:
- More than $76 billion to revive chip production in the U.S.
- Billions of dollars for Department of Energy (DOE) programs supporting research in basic science, fusion energy, carbon sequestration, advanced scientific computing, high energy physics and other areas.
- $81 billion for the National Science Foundation over five years for research, equipment and STEM education.
- Nearly $10 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Other programs addressing ocean acidification, space technology and exploration, blockchain, STEM education in rural communities and bioengineering.
Locally, the increased funding could benefit Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Washington-based collection of labs managed by the DOE.
Pursuit of the legislation was thrown off course earlier this month by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to reporting by Roll Call. Lawmakers backing the act were able to resume their efforts, spurred in part by a classified briefing for senators warning that the U.S. was losing its competitive edge to foreign tech ventures.
“This is one of the most significant long-term thinking bills we’ve passed in a very long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer following the vote.
“Our grandchildren will hold good paying jobs in industries we can’t even imagine because of what we are doing right now and we did it together, both sides cooperating in good faith, on some truly difficult issues,” Schumer said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the House vote.
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