A Republican senator’s bill designed to speed up official approvals for building new U.S. semi-conductor factories that was approved in January by the Senate is now headed to President Joe Biden for signature after passage Friday by the House of Representatives.
The House vote was 303 to 89 to approve the unusually short, less than one page, and titleless bill (pdf) that was first introduced by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) with co-sponsors Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). The yea votes in the House included 175 Republicans (29 didn’t vote) and 121 Democrats, with only 10 of the latter not voting. All 89 votes in opposition were cast by Democrats.
The Senate unanimously approved the measure on Jan. 14. House approval was temporarily delayed by environmental groups that sought to kill it by protesting its consideration under a suspension of the rules.
The House starts its August recess after today and when it returns in September the 2022 midterm congressional election campaigns will be in full swing. Congress rarely passes major bills between August and November of election years.
The bill amends the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) of 2015 to include in its Section 41 permitting provisions to cut federal red tape in approving new projects for the production of a host of critical digital national security and consumer products, most notably covering construction of new factories to make semiconductors in the U.S.
Hagerty estimates that his bill would reduce the regulatory approval process that presently can take up to five years to about 18 months.
“I ran for the Senate to increase opportunity and prosperity for American families and to ensure that America wins the competition with the Chinese Communist Party that will define this century,” Hagerty told The Epoch Times following the House vote.
“We must end our reliance upon China and reassert our manufacturing independence; our national security depends upon it. Reducing government red tape will unleash American competitiveness and innovation by promoting faster construction and operation of manufacturing facilities for critical products that we must make in America,” Hagerty said.
China currently produces 24 percent of all semiconductors, followed by Taiwan with 21 percent and South Korea at 19 percent. Firms based in the U.S. such as Intel and Texas Instruments account for 10 percent of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.
An estimated 90 percent of the most advanced semiconductors are manufactured by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSM).
In addition to semiconductors, the measure also covers products related to “artificial intelligence and machine learning, high-performance computing and advanced computer hardware and software.”
If, as expected, Biden signs Hagerty’s bill, it will be the first instance during the current presidency of a freshman Republican senator succeeding in gaining passage of a measure through both the Democrat-controlled Senate and House and then becoming law.
Before the House vote, Hagerty’s office circulated a fact sheet containing supportive quotes from a former Trump administration trade expert and top automotive industry executives.
“Reducing our economic reliance on China and other foreign nations is critical as America faces strategic economic and national security threats due to this dependence. I applaud Senator Hagerty’s leadership and efforts to strengthen our national security, create American jobs, and make our nation competitive again,” said Robert Lighthizer, who was the U.S. trade representative during the Trump administration.
The automotive industry executives represent foreign firms that have established big manufacturing facilities in the United States.
Andrew Tavi, Nissan Americas Senior Vice President for External Affairs, was quoted saying “Nissan is committed to supporting measures that will help to ease supply chain disruptions and the semiconductor chip shortage; and we appreciate Senator Hagerty’s leadership on national and economic security issues that will address these challenges. Senator Hagerty’s support will help ensure the Tennessee and US economies remain strong and grow more independent through investments in semiconductor plants and advanced technology in the U.S.”
Ana Maria Schneider, Volkswagen of America Group Senior Vice President said Hagerty’s bill will aid her company’s “success in this market, bringing new state-of-the-art products assembled in Tennessee to US consumers, requires a robust and secure domestic supply chain.”