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China competition bill clears Senate filibuster, on path for likely passage

The Senate Tuesday cleared a key procedural hurdle to passing a bill aimed at helping the U.S. compete with China by a 64-32 vote. 

The legislation, called the CHIPS Act of 2022, will now likely see a vote for final passage in the Senate later this week.

After more than a year of talks between lawmakers in both chambers – which resulted in a stuck conference committee – it appeared that the legislation might become a casualty of the fast-approaching election season. 

But the legislation is a priority for President Biden, who’s badly in need of a political win, as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Plus, many of the Senate Republicans were highly invested in pushing back on China. 

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So with August days away, Senate negotiators started moving a stripped-down version of the legislation, with $52 billion directed at growing semiconductor chip manufacturing in the U.S. But the bill quickly grew to $250 billion, with provisions from previous versions being added on, with the backing of lawmakers including Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who led GOP efforts on China-related legislation since early 2021. 

Since Biden took office Congress has passed trillions of dollars in massive domestic spending bills, which economists say the effects of which are likely to contribute to rising inflation in the second half of the year.

“Tonight’s procedural vote is an important first step toward the Senate passing a robust ‘CHIPS Plus’ package,” Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said last week when the China bill cleared an initial procedural vote. “The strong bipartisan vote shows there is broad support for including the USICA provisions critical to our national security and ability to outcompete China.”

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., speaks during a news conference following a weekly meeting with the Senate Republican caucus at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington, DC. 

Schumer released a final version of the text Monday night, which was 1054 pages long. 

Tuesday’s vote was delayed by weather, and complicated by multiple COVID-19 diagnoses among supporters of the bill. 

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Both Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced positive tests. That followed announcements from Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Tom Carper, D-Del., last week that they had COVID-19. Then, strong thunderstorms rolled through Washington, D.C., that delayed senators’ flights into the city. 

But by Tuesday morning, there were enough healthy senators who support the bill in Washington, D.C., to break a filibuster. 

Intel is one of the companies that stands to benefit the most from the Senate's bill, which includes billions in funding for U.S. chip manufacturing. Some opponents of the bill have railed against it as corporate welfare.   

The legislation now goes to the House, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will aim to shepherd it to Biden’s desk. The key political hurdle she will face there will be avoiding too many progressive defections to outweigh any GOP support for the bill. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., railed against the bill as corporate welfare for semiconductor companies, and some of his allies in the lower chamber may feel the same way. Many conservative Republicans oppose the bill for the same reason.

But at least one progressive, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., says the legislation is sorely needed for the U.S. 

“This bill will create thousands of jobs across the country and has strong guardrails in place to ensure the funds go directly towards opening factories in the U.S, not stock buybacks or payments of dividends,” he told Fox News Digital last week.

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