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Capitol Report: Senate aims to pass bill on China and chips by month’s end

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The Democratic-run Senate, with some Republican support, is working toward passing legislation this month that targets China and aims to support the American semiconductor industry, in a fresh sign of bipartisan agreement on how to approach Beijing and a key U.S. sector.

The wide-ranging U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which incorporates an earlier bill known as the Endless Frontier Act, would provide $52 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations for semiconductor programs and $120 billion for the National Science Foundation, NASA and the departments of commerce and energy, according to a summary from Senate Democrats.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to set our country on the path to out-innovate, out-produce and out-compete the world in the industries of the future,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a floor speech on Thursday in support of the legislation.

“Let’s keep working, and deliver a strong bipartisan result by the end of next week,” the New York Democrat added.

While the Senate looks on track to pass the legislation by the end of May, analysts have suggested its fate after that isn’t as clear.

“The larger question is what happens in the House after Senate passage. There is no apples-to-apples companion bill in the House yet,” said analysts at Capital Alpha Partners in a note.

“We expect that the administration’s infrastructure plan would be the ultimate vehicle,” the analysts added.

President Joe Biden’s administration has been talking this week with a group of Senate Republicans who have been proposing smaller infrastructure
PAVE,

plans than Biden’s American Jobs Plan. The president’s infrastructure proposal has a price tag of $2.3 million and also calls for aid for the U.S. chip industry amid an ongoing shortage
SMH,
+2.48%

SOXX,
+2.63%

— $50 billion.

Capital Alpha’s analysts noted the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act “now has provisions on China relations, other international diplomacy matters, spaceflight, 5G wireless, Buy American, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, drones, medical research, and antitrust filing fees (among many other subtopics).”

“Our favorite extraneous items are country of origin labeling for king crab and tanner crab and a drinking water well replacement for Chincoteague, Virginia,” the analysts said.

An analysis from the conservative Heritage Foundation said the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act “has many positive elements, but it is weighed down by massive, unnecessary spending mandates, as well as domestic political issues having nothing to do with China,” so the bill “needs a great deal of revision.”

Sen. Todd Young of Indiana is among the Republicans pushing for the Endless Frontier Act. He said in a Fox Business interview on Thursday that the Senate is “considering multiple pieces of legislation with our Endless Frontier Act as the base bill.”

“This is our opportunity to play offense against the Chinese,” Young said. “The Endless Frontier Act, by making these bold investments, will send a very strong message, if we can get this passed out of the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks — which I believe we will, in addition to some other pieces of legislation also pertaining to China and countering China’s malign behavior.”

Biden administration officials are “strong supporters” of the Endless Frontier Act, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, adding that they hope that it gets signed into law.

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