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‘Chips-plus’ bill passage could slip to next week in Senate

Some Republicans who oppose the bill debating whether to gum up the process

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he might mount a procedural objection but not if it were "futile."
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he might mount a procedural objection but not if it were "futile." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican senators said Wednesday they’re expecting final passage of a trimmed-down semiconductor manufacturing and science-focused economic competitiveness package will slip to next week.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said he believes some opponents of the bill, including several dozen Republicans, will want to drag out votes and “let the clock run.” He said he hasn’t heard of any discussions to speed up the process, which would likely involve getting unanimous consent on a time agreement to allow some amendment votes.

A lead Republican proponent of the chips bill, Indiana Sen. Todd Young, also said he’s expecting the Senate to pass the package next week.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., planned to begin the process of bypassing a filibuster and moving forward with the bill on Wednesday. He said in morning remarks on the Senate floor that he would file cloture at some point during the day and planned to pass the package “as soon as we can.”

Schumer’s remarks signaled he would likely try to get Republicans to provide unanimous consent for a time agreement that would streamline consideration of the bill. But if he can’t get all Republicans to agree, then the earliest the Senate could vote to invoke cloture and cut off debate would be Friday. There are some other procedural steps beyond that Schumer would like to get cooperation to avoid as well.

Some of the Republicans who oppose the bill were debating Wednesday whether to gum up the process. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who called the semiconductor manufacturing incentives in the bill “corporate welfare,” said he might mount a procedural objection but not if it were “futile.” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., said he hadn’t decided yet whether to object to a time agreement.

Senators typically fly home for the weekend on Thursday afternoon, though Schumer could keep them in town to wrap up the chips bill.

Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a lead negotiator on the package, said staying in town over the weekend to get the bill done is an option if necessary given other measures senators want to advance before the chamber’s recess starts Aug. 5. Senate Democrats still want to act on a comprehensive veterans benefits bill after a blue slip issue derailed quick passage last month, a revised budget reconciliation package and perhaps treaty protocols to ratify Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO.

The Senate “chips-plus” bill includes $54 billion in grants over five years for semiconductor manufacturing and research along with 5G wireless deployment; a tax credit covering 25 percent of spending on new semiconductor manufacturing plants through 2026; and science-focused provisions, among them funding authorization for the National Science Foundation.

It’s smaller than separate economic competitiveness bills the Senate and House had each passed and begun conference negotiations on in recent months. But with the chambers at an impasse on portions of the bills including trade, the Senate is now advancing a trimmed bill with the hopes of delivering incentives to the chips industry before August recess.

Schumer expanded the package from a 73-page draft that circulated Sunday night to a 1,054-page substitute amendment after holding a “test vote” Tuesday to sense Republican backing for adding science-related measures into the chips bill. It found support from 64 senators including 16 Republicans, while 33 GOP senators and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., voted no.

“This has been bipartisan work in the Senate at its best,” Schumer said during his floor remarks. The science provisions that were added were the heart of the initial “Endless Frontier” bill he and Young authored last year that ballooned into the broader competition bill the Senate later passed and is now being narrowed somewhat.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the chips-plus package in a letter to House members on Wednesday and said the chamber could act before it leaves for August recess at the end of next week.

“As the Senate undergoes its legislative process, we are optimistic that the House will be able to take this bill up as early as next week,” Pelosi said.

Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.

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