WASHINGTON — A bill to boost U.S. semiconductor production has managed to do almost the unthinkable — unite Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and the fiscally conservative right.
The bill making its way through the Senate is a top priority for the Biden administration. This would add about $79 billion to the deficit over 10 years, mostly due to new subsidies and tax breaks that would subsidize the cost that computer chipmakers incur when building or expanding chip factories in United States.
Proponents say countries around the world are spending billions of dollars to lure chipmakers. The United States must do the same or risk losing a secure supply of semiconductors that power automobiles, computers, appliances, and some of the military’s most advanced weapons systems.
Sanders, I-Vt., and a wide range of conservative lawmakers and think tanks have a different view.
For them, it is “corporate well-being”.
Sanders said he doesn’t hear anyone talking about the need to help the semiconductor industry. Constituents talk to her about climate change, gun safety, preserving women’s right to abortion and increasing social security benefits, to name a few.
“Not a lot of people that I can remember – I’ve been all over this country – say, ‘Bernie, you go back there and you do the work, and you give extremely profitable companies, who pay outrageous salaries to their CEOs, billions and billions of dollars in corporate welfare,” Sanders said.
Sanders voted against the original semiconductor and research bill that passed the Senate last year. He was the only senator who caucused with Democrats to oppose the measure, joining 31 Republicans.
While Sanders would like to see the spending directed elsewhere, several GOP senators simply want the spending stopped, period. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the spending would help fuel inflation that hurts the poor and middle class.
“Why would we want to take money away from them and give it to the rich is beyond my ability to comprehend,” Lee said.
Conservative stalwarts such as the Heritage Foundation and tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks have also spoken out against the bill.
“Giving taxpayers’ money to wealthy corporations is not in competition with China,” said Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Asian Studies.
Proponents are confident the bill will pass the Senate. The window to push the bill through the House is narrow if progressives join Sanders and most Republicans line up in opposition due to budget concerns.
The White House says the bill must pass by the end of the month as businesses are now making decisions about where to build.