House unveils long-awaited semiconductor chip funding bill

Washington — The U.S. House introduced its version of legislation that would allocate $52 billion for semiconductor chip manufacturing late Tuesday, teeing up debate with the Senate that could prompt movement on the long-stalled funding. 

The funding has been a priority for the Biden administration, for auto industry leaders and for many of Michigan's member of Congress as an ongoing global chip shortage has forced up prices for consumers and cost the auto industry billions in lost revenue. 

The Senate passed a version of the legislation aimed at competing with China last June, but it failed to gain momentum in the House amid policy disagreements. 

"Major components of this package have already passed the House with overwhelmingly bipartisan votes, and we look forward to conferencing this bill with the Senate to get legislation to the President’s desk as soon as possible," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Both versions of the legislation include $50 billion in emergency funding for domestic semiconductor chip production and an additional $2 billion set aside for legacy chips used in autos, pushed for in the Senate by Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and in the House by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.

The House bill also includes $45 billion for grants and loans for supply chain resilience and "critical goods" manufacturing, $1 billion for programs within a new Commerce Department office responsible for supply chain mapping, and additional funding for National Science Foundation programs for innovative research and development. 

The Senate version includes $190 billion for technology and research aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness with China. 

The House bill also includes trade provisions that would impose sanctions on China based on human rights violations against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang and would establish a review process that screens outbound investments and offshoring to avoid supply chain vulnerabilities. 

Many Republicans opposed the Senate-passed version of the bill, arguing it didn't do enough to rein in China, while some progressive groups raised concerns it would foster a dangerous "zero-sum" relationship with Beijing. 

GOP lawmakers Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning said that they did not get input into the newly-released legislation and that they'd hoped the new legislation would be tougher on China.

“It's just been frustrating that there there was no attempt to get any Republican input into it, and it's certainly soft pedaled concerns with China,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I don't think that's the place to be, but we'll see.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers — including Michigan GOP Reps. Fred Upton of Tipton and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township and Democrat Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Holly, Haley Stevens of Waterford Township and Dingell — endorsed passage of chips funding in October. 

Meijer told The News Tuesday before the House bill was introduced that he hopes the chips funding is a priority item on the agenda when lawmakers return to Washington next week, but that he would prefer Pelosi brings the measure to the floor as a standalone bill. 

“Because all too often, Speaker Pelosi will bundle together a whole heap of tangentially related pieces of legislation presented as one partisan bundle, rather than dealing with individual bills that have bipartisan support on their own merits,” Meijer said.

“I'm hoping that we see the Chips Act introduced as a standalone and passed. I think that will be very important for us to deal with the issues that led to the semiconductor shortage in the U.S. and make sure we're well-positioned going forward.”

After the bill was released, his office said the House proposal represented "a slap in the face to the bipartisan work happening on this critical issue."

Democrats, meanwhile, praised the bill as a historic investment in research and development that would increase American competitiveness. 

"This pandemic has demonstrated the need for the United States to bring our supply chain home — pure and simple," Dingell said in a statement. "This will return jobs, create new ones, boost manufacturing and address the semiconductor chip shortage, and protect national security."

The House expects to take up its version of the legislation next week when lawmakers return to Washington. If it passes, the House and Senate will try to resolve differences in their versions before finalizing it.

"The semiconductor crisis is devastating Michigan workers, families and businesses. We have no time to waste to fix this," Stabenow said in a statement. "Michigan workers are the best in the world, and this legislation will help them lead our manufacturing future.”

Twitter: @rbeggin