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Bill would provide billions for manufacturing and research support; Oregon companies offer support

PMG FILE PHOTO: PETER WONG - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Gabriela Cruz Thompson, senior director of university research and collaboration for Intel Labs, at a news conference July 9 in Portland. Intel, Oregon's largest private employer, backs legislation approved by the Senate July 27 to provide more federal suppprt for domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research.Oregon senators praised passage of legislation to provide federal support for expanding domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research.

The Senate vote of 64-33 on Wednesday, July 27 — including Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley — sends the legislation (HR 4346) back to the House, which passed a different version on Feb. 4. Assuming that the chambers resolve their differences, the bill could go to President Biden for his signature before the congressional recess starts Aug. 6.

Biden, in an April 21 stopover at Portland International Airport, urged Congress to get moving on the legislation.

The Senate version proposes $52 billion for grants and tax incentives to encourage domestic manufacturing of semiconductors — for which the United States has relied on China and other Asian nations— and $200 billion for advanced research. About $10 billion would go to new regional technology hubs to be designated by the secretary of commerce.

Seventeen Republicans joined 46 Democrats and one independent who sides with Democrats to vote for the bill. Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who also normally sides with Democrats, joined 32 Republicans in opposition. Two Democrats and one Republican did not vote.

Wyden conducted a news conference on July 9 with executives from Intel — Oregon's largest private employer with 22,000 workers — plus nLight and Microchip Technology. All are based outside Oregon, but Intel has plants in Hillsboro and Aloha, nLight in Hillsboro and Vancouver, Washington, and Microchip Technology in Gresham. Intel has a major research and development facility in Hillsboro.

Wyden, chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, also is a co-chair of a state task force on semiconductors. The others are Gov. Kate Brown and Maria Pope, chief executive of Portland General Electric.

Statements by senators

PMG FILE PHOTO: PETER WONG - Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley at an April 8 Portland event. Both Democrats voted for legislation, which now heads to the House, for federal support of domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research.Wyden's statement after the vote:

"That (bill) adds up to a big win for Oregon companies and workers as well as consumers facing higher costs due to shortages in foreign-made and foreign-subsidized chips and supply chain problems."

"This bill goes hand in hand with the state semiconductor task force's work to pump new life into the Silicon Forest so Oregon's job-creating businesses can have an even stronger heartbeat at the center of U.S. chip production.

"Fresh incentives to bring chip manufacturing back to America are especially timely for Oregon, with the task force working to ensure our state continues generating high-paying tech jobs. Bottom line, I'm gratified the Senate has passed this bipartisan bill strengthening the economic and national security of our country and state."

Merkley's statement:

"Strengthening manufacturing in America is a win-win. If we don't make things in America, we won't have a middle class in America. Our modern economy is built on tiny chips, and we can grow the middle class and protect our national security with strong domestic supply chains. And since Oregon is the backbone of the American semiconductor industry, Oregon especially stands to gain from this bill.

"The pandemic alone didn't cause the chip shortage. It shed light on existing fault lines in our manufacturing infrastructure. We've learned the hard way how desperately we need these investments in American workers to produce chips here at home instead of sourcing chips made abroad. This bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate cements American competitiveness and ensures we stay at the forefront of innovation.

"This legislation is also a critical step in competing with China, which is about revitalizing our ability to level the playing field. Today is only a first step and we cannot stop here. Congress must come back and pass other bipartisan provisions that ensure American values for human rights and democracy remain a centerpiece of our relationship with China."

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