‘Pass the damn bill’: Biden demands chips legislation to counter China tech rise

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U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks during a visit at United Performance Metals in Hamilton, Ohio, May 6, 2022.
Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Friday demanded Congress swiftly pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act, a multibillion dollar investment in the U.S. semiconductor industry that Republicans and Democrats say will help insulate the country from future supply chain disruptions in Asia.

Biden spoke at United Performance Metals, a metal manufacturer near Cincinnati. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, from Ohio, joined the president.

The president applauded the two men for their collaboration on the legislation as part of the broader bipartisan effort to bulk up domestic manufacturing.

“This is a bipartisan bill,” Biden told workers at the plant. “Senators Brown and Portman are working hard to get it done.”

“Pass the damn bill and send it to me,” the president continued. “If we do, it’s going to help bring down prices, bring home jobs and power America’s manufacturing comeback.”

While the Bipartisan Innovation Act is popular with both Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate lawmakers are about to begin work on rectifying differences in their two versions of the same legislation. Negotiators for both chambers, including Brown, will hold their first formal meeting on the bill on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Among its many provisions, the Bipartisan Innovation Act includes $52 billion in government subsidies to ramp up U.S. semiconductor production.

Biden said Friday that the sum will encourage semiconductor companies to build facilities in the U.S. and help prevent the types of chip shortages that now undermine the automotive and electronics industries.

But the president also acknowledged that the bill appeals to many American lawmakers, since it seeks to bolster U.S. technology and innovation to keep pace with China, a key geopolitical rival.

It’s going to help “strengthen our economic and national security,” Biden said. “It’s no wonder the Chinese Communist Party is literally lobbying — paying lobbyists — against this bill passing.”

Biden’s trip to Ohio also comes as the president attempts to help fellow Democrats in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections and prevent a Republican takeover of Congress.

The GOP and its candidates have attacked the president and the Democratic Congress for their management of the U.S. economy. Republicans are quick to note that inflation is at a 40-year high, oil prices are still above $100 per barrel and the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.28.

Former President Donald Trump won Ohio in 2016 and 2020, thanks in part to Rust Belt frustrations over seeing manufacturers relocate jobs to countries where the cost of labor is lower. Voters will decide in November whether Trump-backed Republican author J.D. Vance or Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan will replace the retiring the Portman.

In his remarks, Biden highlighted the Labor Department’s April employment report, which showed U.S. employers added 428,000 jobs last month.

The April report was the 12th straight month of gains over 400,000.

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