The Chips and Science Act, encompassing nearly $250 billion in federal spending for American science and technology research, development and manufacturing, passed out of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday in a bipartisan fashion, 64-33.
“I want to thank my colleagues here today for responding to that threat of competition from around the globe,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., in a press conference following the vote. Cantwell is chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
The country’s share of semiconductor manufacturing capacity has declined from 37 percent in 1990 to 12 percent today, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.
“We don’t know exactly what innovations will come out of this, but we do know this: America will be more competitive because of it,” Cantwell said during a floor speech earlier in the day. “And we do know this, that we will be able to grow our economy for the future because of the investments that we’ve made today.”
Cantwell went on to say that she thought incentivizing the creation of semiconductors was as important as incentivizing the growing of wheat.
“Just last year alone, chip shortages cost the U.S. economy $240 billion. That is the automobile industry that didn’t have chips, that is part of the electronics industry that didn’t have chips. You can say it’s even in the cost of every product that you buy,” she added. “Chips are just as essential as wheat is in America.”
The bill does not just provide financial incentives for semiconductor manufacturers but also includes $20 billion over five years to support research and development, $16.9 billion to increase funding for the Department of Energy’s research and development to combat climate change, $13 billion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce development, and $10 billion for a Department of Commerce program aimed at encouraging growth in U.S. technology hubs outside of Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., Seattle and San Diego.
The Chips and Science Act, formerly CHIPS, would also triple funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Impact Washington is the organization overseeing the partnership in the state and has worked with local companies such as Columbia Machine Inc., ControlTek, First Aid Only and nLIGHT.
“This is going to allow us to reach more small and medium-size manufacturers in Washington and provide those solutions they’re looking for, whether that be in workforce, innovation or supply chain,” Deloit Wolfe, president of Impact Washington, told The Columbian.
Of the thousands of manufacturers in the state, Wolfe said, 6,200 have fewer than 42 employees.
Southwest Washington is home to a number of technology companies, including the Camas semiconductor firm WaferTech, a subsidiary of the Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC, and SEH America, which is part of the largest producer of semiconductor silicon in the world, Shin-Etsu Handotai. TSMC plans to expand its American manufacturing in Arizona.
“Passing the Chips and Science Act will strengthen our supply chains, invest in American manufacturing and jobs here in Washington state, and lower the cost of everyday goods that we all rely on,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a press release.
“This legislation sends a clear message that we are making things in America again and that we will continue to lead the world in manufacturing while creating good-paying jobs here at home.”
The bill now goes on to the U.S. House of Representatives. If it passes, it will need to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
This article was updated to include a quote from Sen. Patty Murray.