The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)
GOP: Computer chip funds aid ‘woke’ agenda
Republican senators are accusing the Biden administration of using $39 billion meant to build computer chip factories to further “woke” ideas such as requiring some recipients to offer child care and encouraging the use of union labor.
The administration has countered that these elements of the funding guidelines announced Tuesday will improve the likelihood of attracting companies to build the semiconductor factories and people to work there — a key challenge that could determine the program’s success. It sees the guidelines as a starting point for working with companies to ensure value for taxpayers.
The tension is an example of the partisan mistrust that can arise in Washington even on an agenda item that lawmakers from both parties say is vital for U.S. national security.
Republicans say the administration, in implementing the law, is trying to squeeze in priorities that please the Democratic base. They also argue that the guidelines will increase the cost of constructing semiconductor plants and will poison any sense of ongoing trust.
“What President Biden is doing by jamming woke and green agenda items into legislation we pass is making it harder for him to ever get legislation passed again,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who voted for the law.
But in the grand scheme, administration officials say, the guidelines can help to address two fundamental challenges to the government’s plans to transform the United States into the world leader in producing advanced computer chips: The companies need skilled labor and they need innovations that can reduce production costs.
If the investments are going to succeed, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said, the companies must find and train tens of thousands of workers, from welders to electrical engineers. More importantly, the industry needs scientific breakthroughs to halve the cost of making chips so the U.S. can compete with Asia, Raimondo told The Associated Press in an interview before the guidelines came out.
“Innovation happens when you go to solve big fat problems like cutting the cost of chip production in half,” Raimondo said. “That’s what we have to do.”
The money for the factories comes from the CHIPS and Science Act that President Joe Biden signed into law last August. It includes $11 billion for research, in addition to the $39 billion for building advanced computer chip factories. Tax incentives bring the total investment to $52 billion.
Chips are integrated circuits that are embedded in a semiconductor, a material — notably silicon — that can manage the flow of electric current. The terms “chip” and “semiconductor” are often used interchangeably.
Computer chips are used in everything from autos to toys to advanced weapons, making them as fundamental
for the digital era as iron and steel were in the industrial age.
Administration officials said the factories could have an easier time attracting workers if child care is provided to parents at an “affordable” rate by companies that would receive $150 million or more in government backing.