Government & Politics  August 1, 2022

Editorial: Congress fishes for chips with $280B bill to fund semiconductor sector

The U.S. semiconductor industry asked Congress to pass the CHIPS, and lawmakers kindly obliged.

Sometimes, an idea makes so much sense that even a dysfunctional Congress can muster enough votes to pass the measure.

Such appears to be the case with the so-called CHIPs and Science Act, passed by the Senate July 27 and by the House of Representatives July 28.

The “CHIPS” phrase stands for “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors.” (Yes, someone was clearly trying too hard with that moniker.)

But the $280 billion package — which includes a host of unrelated measures — will go a long way toward restoring U.S. competitiveness in semiconductors and other advanced technologies.

The measure was passed 64-33 in the Senate, after years of discussion. The House followed suit, approving the measure in a 243-187-1 vote. It includes about $52 billion that will go to chip manufacturers to incentivize construction of semiconductor-fabrication plants in the United States.

Another $100 billion will fund work at the National Science Foundation to establish regional technology hubs aimed at supporting startups.

Increasing domestic production of semiconductor chips will promote national security. The U.S. faces intense competition in semiconductors from China and Taiwan. The U.S. Commerce Department estimates that only 12% of the world’s chips are made by U.S. manufacturers, down from 40%. China alone has invested $150 billion in the semiconductor sector. And Taiwan dominates the market for leading-edge chips.

Chips are used in everything from automobiles to cell phones, dishwashers, medical equipment, computers and military weapons — you name it.

But supply-chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have threatened economic growth and slowed production across many industries. Chip shortages have exacerbated the situation.

Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley boast numerous companies engaged in chip design and manufacturing, including Broadcom Inc., Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Qualcomm Inc., Xilinx Inc. and others.

The sector’s legacy goes back decades in the region, employing thousands of workers in high-paying jobs that feed the area’s culture of innovation.

It remains to be seen how the CHIPS bill will affect companies engaged in chip production locally, but any boost to the industry in the U.S. should help the industry locally.

So, yes, occasionally, Congress can eschew dysfunction and accomplish something meaningful.

Now let’s see where the chips fall.

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