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House passes China competition bill that would fund U.S. semiconductor chip makers without support from Ohio Republicans

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson of Zanesville represents a part of Ohio where Intel Corp. recently announced plans to build a $20 billion computer chip factory. Yet he joined with every other Ohio Republican in Congress on Friday in voting against a large legislative package that included $52 billion in incentives to companies that locate chip production in the United States. Balderson and others Ohio Republicans said they supported the semiconductor chip funding in the Democrat-authored bill to improve U.S. economic competitiveness against China but opposed other measures it contains.

Democrats said their “America COMPETES Act” would make historic investments in research, innovation and American manufacturing to ensure that the United States can economically outcompete other countries. It passed the House of Representatives on Friday by a 222-210 margin, with support from just one Republican -- U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Its provisions aren’t final. Negotiators from the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will meet to formulate a compromise between the House-passed legislation and a bill the U.S. Senate passed last summer that takes a different approach to the same issues. After that, both legislative bodies would have to approve the compromise for it to become law.

Balderson took to the House of Representatives floor earlier this week to tout Intel’s upcoming Licking County investment and the need to bolster the U.S. semiconductor industry to keep U.S. industries from being “held hostage by the imbalance of foreign chip production.” He also noted that many U.S. military systems depend on the chips, so foreign reliance leaves U.S. national security interests vulnerable. But he said the legislation to fund the CHIPS Act, which was adopted last year as part of a defense bill, “constitutes a small fraction of the bill’s overall price tag, which is over $300 billion.”

Balderson said he objects to provisions that funnel $8 billion to a U.N. Green Climate fund he describes as “unaccountable.” He said the bill pours billions of dollars into offshore Climate Change Resiliency programs instead of holding China accountable for its destructive emission standards. He said it would enable espionage by allowing the Chinese Communist Party to pick which of its nationals apply for U.S. visas. He argues its creation of “Climate Change Officers” within the Foreign Service would weaken diplomats’ focus on core U.S. interests.

“Rather than allowing American economic competitiveness to be a rallying point for bipartisanship, the Majority’s all-or-nothing approach makes this yet another missed opportunity,” he said. “If this bill advances to the conference committee, I am hopeful that conferees will focus on areas of bipartisan, bicameral agreement, like the CHIPS Act. It’s past time to bolster this production here at home.”

Niles-area Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan took to the House of Representatives floor soon after Balderson to declare that he’s “stunned to hear some of the rhetoric coming from the other side around a bill that finally, after decades, recognizes that we are in a very stiff competition with China.”

He accused Republicans of focusing on a culture war instead of backing a bill that would enable the expansion of Intel’s planned investment outside Columbus and create thousands of jobs.

“China has a 10-year plan, 50-year plan, 100-year plan,” said Ryan. “We live in a 24-hour news cycle talking about Dr. Seuss, Big Bird, M&Ms, SpongeBob and we’re getting our clocks cleaned.”

In addition to including $52 billion to incentivize private sector investment in the production of U.S. semiconductor chips, Ryan applauded provisions that would create a Chief Manufacturing Officer within the White House’s executive branch and establish nearly one million additional apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years.

Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur delivered her own speech on the House of Representative floor that said the bill would “move America forward by freeing us from foreign chip domination.”

“Let’s revitalize America’s manufacturing life, reshore production here in the United States and create thousands of new living-wage jobs for workers and families,” she said to urge its passage.

Holmes County GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs released a statement that said the bill would let China off the hook for practices like corporate espionage, military aggression and buying influence on college campuses while funneling billions towards Democrat-interest groups.

“There ought to be a bipartisan consensus on how to face the threat of a rising China, but this bill fails to adequately address it,” said Gibbs.

South Russell GOP Rep. Dave Joyce opposed the bill even though it contained the semiconductor chip measure he backs and legislation he champions that would let legal cannabis companies access the banking system even though the products they sell are still illegal under federal law. One of the cannabis bill’s Democratic co-sponsors inserted it into the larger COMPETES legislation in hopes it will make it through the conference committee and become law. Joyce said the provisions he supported were “unfortunately, wound around other objectives of the majority party.”

Bowling Green’s Bob Latta, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said the bill fails to hold China accountable for its trade practices and needs to do more to make China stop cheating the United States and other countries. He said that to counter China, the United States needs an ambitious trade agenda that sells American products, promotes Made-in America goods and services, relieves supply chain shortages and creates jobs.

“While I support the CHIPS Act, which is focused on restoring American leadership in semiconductor chip manufacturing, this bill falls far too short in addressing the supply chain issues presented by China,” said a statement from Latta. “It fails to establish a federal framework to guide American innovators in their work on autonomous vehicles, irresponsibly ceding ground to China to determine the future of this technology. Furthermore, this bill does nothing to hold China accountable for concealing and impeding the investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which is deeply troubling.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said he was pleased the House bill included the money to help the semiconductor industry, but said it might have been a better idea for it to have instead taken up the bill that the Senate passed last year, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which he and 18 other Republicans backed.

“If the House passes something that is partisan, we can still have the opportunity in the conference committee with the House and Senate of fixing that and sending it back in a bipartisan way,” said Portman. “My hope is that we can still end up with a bill that deals with China.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said he believes House Republicans opposed the bill because it was a “Joe Biden initiative.” He said many Republicans have “been in the pockets of corporations that move jobs to China, so they really don’t want to change.

“They talk a good game, but in the end, they stood up in support of outsourcing those jobs, they stood up in support of those trade agreements,” said Brown. “But this bill is really important. It’s going to matter for the Intel investment. It’s going to matter for bringing jobs back here.”

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