The US government just crossed a key milestone in its bid to improve domestic chip production and compete with rivals like China. CNBC reports the Senate has passed the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill to fund and incentivize American semiconductor manufacturing, in a 64-to-33 vote. The measure includes over $52 billion for US firms making chips, additional funding for further technology development and tax credits to spur manufacturing investments.
The Act, also known as “CHIPS-plus,” is a scaled-back version of bills previously circulating through Congress. Those efforts received opposition across the political spectrum. Republicans objected to earlier measures with accusations that Democrats were pushing a partisan reconciliation bill that would include climate, medicine and tax considerations. There were also concerns funding might inadvertently reach China. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, was concered that a past variant was a “blank check” to already-profitable chip producers.
The House will still have to pass and help reconcile counterpart legislation before President Biden can sign the bill into law. That’s considered very likely, however, as the Senate has cleared a 60-vote filibuster threshold. The House is expected to pass its version when Democrats only need to wield their majority to succeed.
The expected law is unlikely to have an immediate effect when new factories take years to complete, and upgrades aren’t necessarily quicker. It won’t address near-term chip shortages. Even so, CHIPS could play an important role in American tech manufacturing. On top of reducing the chances of future shortages, it could reduce the dependence on Taiwan and other semiconductor hubs threatened by countries like China. While there are no guarantees the Act will lead to more jobs and lower prices, it might help the US compete in an increasingly fierce market.