US House, Senate will negotiate on China tech Bill

Usica authorises US$190 billion to strengthen US technology and research to compete with China. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States House and Senate leaders said on Wednesday (Nov 17) that lawmakers would negotiate to try to reach final agreement on a Bill to boost US technology competitiveness with China and semiconductor manufacturing.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had sought to attach the Bill to a US$750 billion (S$1 trillion) annual defence policy proposal. He said on Monday he planned to add the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), hoping to get it passed so President Joe Biden can sign it into law this year.

USICA includes US$52 billion to increase US semiconductor production and authorises US$190 billion to strengthen US technology and research to compete with China.

But the plan to combine USICA and the NDAA faced opposition, with Mr Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a statement on Wednesday: "Senate Republicans made it clear they would block the inclusion of USICA on the NDAA."

The Senate passed USICA with bipartisan support in June. But the House of Representatives never took up the Senate-passed measure. House leaders said earlier they wanted to pass their own Bill, but never did.

Mr Schumer and Ms Pelosi said they would now enter formal negotiations on USICA by going to conference.

The two said: "Working with President Biden, the House and Senate have been crafting bipartisan legislation to bolster American manufacturing, fix our supply chains and invest in the next generation of cutting-edge technology research. There are still a number of important unresolved issues."

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said the Senate got ahead of the House on USICA but that Congress must act quickly.

"America's R&D infrastructure needs to be dusted off," she told reporters.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said the combined NDAA and USICA would be worth more than US$1 trillion in one year.

Too much of that, he argued, would go to high-profit defence contractors as well as to semiconductor firms that shifted manufacturing to China, taking away US jobs and contributing to the current worldwide chip shortage.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.