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Senate put $50 billion into chips semiconductor research

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The Senate voted today to invest more than $50 billion into one domestic industry. Here's Majority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: It's a major step for our economic security, national security, our supply chains and, in fact, for America's future.

SUMMERS: The future is resting on semiconductors. Those are the tiny computer chips that run cars, appliances, smartphones and missile defense systems. These tiny chips have an outsized importance on American productivity and defense. And that is why a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including our next guest, say more semiconductors need to be made in the United States. Here to discuss this is Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, who sponsored this bill. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, Senator.

TODD YOUNG: It's great to be with you, Juana.

SUMMERS: Great to have you. So let's jump in here. This bill includes more than $50 billion for companies that build semiconductors in the United States. On a practical level, what will that money help support?

YOUNG: So this money will help ensure that the future fabs that are built - those fabrication facilities where we manufacture microprocessors or computer chips - are built here on American soil, not in Korea, Taiwan or in European nations, all of whom have very generous subsidies to onshore the manufacture of these key components. We have to be in the game for both national security purposes, as well as our nation's economic security.

SUMMERS: You've been leading the charge on this effort, along with Senator Schumer, who's a Democrat. Why does this kind of spending appeal to Republicans? And how did you manage to bring onboard so many of your Republican colleagues in support of this bill?

YOUNG: Well, you know, it's good for the country. I made the argument to my Republican colleagues that this was a necessary investment in light of other countries' generous subsidies. If we're unable to make these investments in our own high-end computer chips, we'll be reliant on other countries to produce the chips that go into our missile systems, radars, ships and other national defense technologies. And our automobile assembly plants will idle as the General Motors plant in Indiana has had to do twice already this year. And there'll be massive interruptions in our economy, not just on account of geopolitical events, but also in the event of a future pandemic or other natural disaster.

SUMMERS: You made a point about the competitive landscape. As I understand it, top chipmakers were pushing lawmakers like yourself to quickly pass this bill. But are there any worries that this is simply too little, too late when you compare the U.S. to other nations that have moved more quickly in passing similar incentives?

YOUNG: No. In fact, in anticipation of passage of this legislation, we already saw a number of semiconductor manufacturers sufficiently reassured and incentivized to go ahead and make announcements of major semiconductor fabrication investments in the United States. These investments demonstrated that passage of this legislation will sufficiently reassure our manufacturers to onshore our own semiconductor capacity.

SUMMERS: Senator, this was a significant bipartisan accomplishment for the Senate at a time where many people view the body as fractured and often unable to find agreement. To your mind, what made this different?

YOUNG: You know, I partnered with Republicans and Democrats alike to make an argument that people weren't used to hearing, that we needed to reshore some of our manufacturing capacity for national security and economic security purposes. And we needed to double down on our federal investments in our national research and innovation base for national security purposes. And that was an argument that wasn't always met with a warm embrace on account of the investment required. But, you know, after a period of time, it became clear that people were persuaded by the national security proposition. And frankly, they came to understand that this was critical to winning the 21st century, ensuring that our values win the day and not those of the Chinese Communist Party. So I would say, a collaborative spirit, a lot of persistence and an ability to make some compelling arguments to get your colleagues on board.

SUMMERS: Senator Todd Young is a Republican from Indiana who sponsored the bill that was passed earlier today. Sir, thank you so much for being here.

YOUNG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.