Washington

White House pressures Congress to get China bill across the finish line but showdown looms

The White House on Thursday stepped up its pressure on Congress to pass a behemoth China competition bill.

Lawmakers return to Washington next week from a Fourth of July holiday with a few short weeks to finish the bill before the August recess.

“It’s now or never to do this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “Other countries aren’t waiting. They’re offering tax incentives for companies to invest in new manufacturing lines and companies are currently making their investment decisions.”

Senate and House negotiators have remained deadlocked on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, or USICA, which includes a $52 billion incentive for semiconductor manufacturers to build production plants in the U.S., a marquee measure that is largely supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Industry leaders say the semiconductors provision is vital for the U.S. to remain competitive with Chinese and other foreign producers.

Three major semiconductor manufacturers — TSMC, Intel, and Global Foundries — have recently warned that they will scale back plans to produce semiconductors in the U.S. if Congress is unable to cut a deal.

President Biden pressed Congress for quick passage of the legislation but final negotiations to work out key differences between House and Senate versions of the bill stalled for months.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to sink the bill if Democrats continue to push to resurrect Mr. Biden’s long-stalled social welfare and climate change spending package.

“Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill,” Mr. McConnell said on Twitter.

Mr. McConnell’s warning signals an uphill battle for Democrats hoping to get the bill over the finish line soon and puts the president in the tough spot of having to balance his domestic spending agenda with his tough-on-China stance.

Mr. McConnell’s shot across the bow drew a swift response from Ms. Jean-Pierre. She accused the Republican leader of holding the China competition bill hostage “to protect the ability of big pharmaceutical companies to price gouge.”

“Here’s the bottom line: We’ve got to get this done,” she said. “We can do both. So I say to Mitch McConnell, let’s get this done.”



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