WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The United States could soon spend billions of dollars on semiconductor manufacturing. Lawmakers are weighing legislation to invest in the industry in ways that could have impacts on the economy and national security.
Congress is working on a deal to spend more than $50 billion in financial incentives for companies to build semiconductor plants. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has been leading the push for that legislation.
“There’s probably no industry that is more critical to the overall health of the economy,” Warner said.
That’s because the chips are used in virtually every electronic from phones to cars to military equipment. It’s a category where Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves says the U.S. has fallen behind.
“The rest of the world is wooing away these companies that are really ready to make investments in the United States,” Graves said.
If lawmakers don’t pass something soon, there’s concern the U.S. will lose out entirely.
“We’re going to miss the boat,” Warner warned.
Both the House and the Senate have passed separate versions of the legislation, but still haven’t reached a final compromise. Lawmakers on both sides are hopeful that will happen before their August recess.
“I think we’ll find a path forward,” Warner said.
“We’ve got to get this done,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. “It is a national security imperative as well as an economic one.”
Senators are expected to vote on some version of the legislation next week.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., won’t be one of the lawmakers voting for it.
“I think it’s very important that we make semiconductor chips in America. This bill doesn’t do that,” Scott said. “In this bill, there’s no obligation to build plants in America. You can take this money and actually build plants wherever you want.”
The Biden administration insists if Congress can get this done, they will put those guardrails in place.
“We will be very focused on making sure that we are getting the best investment for the taxpayer’s dollar, that we’re getting the returns,” Graves said.
White House officials have been holding closed door meetings with lawmakers and publicly expressing urgency in an effort to push things forward.
“We’re creating good jobs out of this and we’re also making sure we don’t ever have to rely on other countries for a technology that is absolutely essential,” Graves said.