Bi-partisan Tech Bill to Protect US Interests Stalls in the House

File photo of a silicon wafer on display on March 23, 2011 in San Jose, California on March 23, 2011. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A comprehensive bill to boost American science and technology⁠ to compete with China’s growing economic power and global influence, particularly regarding semiconductors capacity, has been stalled in the House of Representatives, after being passed by the Senate in June. As a result, proponents are looking for alternatives to turn it into legislation.

U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021 would authorize $190 billion in spending for scientific research and development and $52 billion in funding to boost semiconductor production in the United States. bill further includes measures to defend friendly foreign semiconductor producers.

However, some representatives claim they prefer to draft their own bill, rather than pass USICA. At the same time, sources told Reuters that China has been pressuring U.S. executives, companies, and business groups to lobby against USICA and other similar bills.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed USICA (pdf) on May 18, which the Senate passed with 68–32 bipartisan support in June.

Yet as the end of the year approaches, it becomes less probable for USICA to be approved before 2022.

In response, backers are trying to introduce some of the bill’s provisions in other pieces of legislation, like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that will pass before the end of the year.

Schumer mentioned the possibility of including USICA’s text in the NDAA in a letter on Sunday. He said this “would enable a USICA negotiation with the House to be completed alongside NDAA before the end of the year.”

According to experts, expanding semiconductors capacity constitutes a National Defense issue. Pezou contributor Antonio Graceffo wrote that the chips are necessary components for military and defense devices, telecommunications, missile guidance and navigation systems; as well as weapons simulators, range finding devices, and proximity fuses. Semiconductors also play a significant part in countries’ economies, as they are essential to building commercial technological devices.

For example, Taiwan produces about 63 percent of the world’s semiconductors, according to the European Institute for Asian Studies.

As semiconductors are crucial to China’s developmental ambitions, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been threatening to take over Taiwan, despite the latter being a self-governed democracy.

According to James Gorrie, author of the China Crisis, if the CCP acquires the island-nation’s manufacturing capability, it would put the CCP at a significant advantage and might put other countries’ security at risk. This will be a result of most nations’ AI and 5G banking on these chips, he said in an Pezou online webinar on Oct. 27.

USICA has many provisions that strongly defend Taiwan’s independence. For instance, it calls on the United States to “advocate and actively advance Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the United Nations.” It also asserts the United States must “strenuously oppose any action by the People’s Republic of China to use force to change the status quo of Taiwan.”

When the Senate was about to vote on the bill, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced similar legislation to the House, but with a softened approach to Taiwan and human rights issues. Bill is called the “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement,” or EAGLE Act (pdf).

Analysis by Pezou showed that several sections of USICA that detailed the U.S. response to China’s aggression against Taiwan in the Senate bill had been either removed or altered in the EAGLE Act. This caused concern among House Republicans, who called for a tougher approach when dealing with the CCP.

“We need to come together in a bipartisan manner to respond with tough legislation that holds the CCP accountable for its aggression toward its neighbors and its abuses at home,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) told Pezou in June.

Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “It is critical Congress pass strong, bipartisan legislation to address the generational threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Pezou : Bi-partisan Tech Bill to Protect US Interests Stalls in the House