Best listening experience is on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Subscribe to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.
The Senate this week will continue debating the so called CHIPS Bill that would heavily subsidize the semiconductor industry, but the bill has grown from amendments. The National Science Foundation and the Commerce Department would get tens of billions of new dollars. Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin to discuss this and what else to expect on Capitol Hill this week.
Tom Temin Loren, let’s start with that bill. I guess the amendments came from Republicans and Democrats via Chuck Schumer that sort of quadruples the spending under this bill.
Loren Duggan That’s right. So this bill is a piece of what was the China Competition Legislation that had passed both the House and the Senate. Broad, sweeping legislation was part of a House Senate conference committee that more or less stalled out a few weeks ago. There was an effort to revive one of the key pieces of it, and that was the $50 billion or so in appropriated funding for semiconductor production in the U.S. Most of that money will be going into the Commerce Department, but there’s some other pools of money as well that will help DoD and everything. So that was where they started when they talked about doing just to the CHIPS portion of that China legislation. What we have now is what’s being called CHIPS+ by many people. Its CHIPS plus this package of science and energy funding that had been negotiated in the past by the Senate, and was at the heart of their initial version of what became the China Competition bill. So you know, this bill broadened and then shrank and then got a little broader again. So what we have is 1,000 plus page bill that has direct funding for this chips production, a tax credit for semiconductor production as well and then authorizations over many years for [the] National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Energy Department and other research programs. So that’s not money that will flow today, but by setting up these authorizations, and as they write appropriations bills in the future, that money will start to flow out. So it’s a big bill. It’s, I think, a win that a number of Democrats and Republicans will take and have some bipartisan support in the procedural votes last week, and we should see that again, I would imagine, this week as they try to wrap that up in the Senate, kick it to the House and the House may try to do that before they leave as well. So by the end of this week, we could see that legislation on its way to President Biden and a win that he wants as well and will undoubtedly tout.
Tom Temin Interesting. I guess, well, that could be a good sell with the public, if they don’t know the details, that “Oh good. We can’t get cars because there’s no chips. This helps the chip industry.”
Loren Duggan Right. I mean chips are in everything now right. Even refrigerators and cars and everything else under the sun. So, getting this production going is going to be important. Now, it might not happen right away, but there was some concern that if this bill didn’t start getting wrapped up and this money didn’t start flowing at some point, that some of the plans that companies had to build factories might be called back. So that was one of the emphasis behind people trying to get this through as soon as possible, and certainly before they left for the August recess.
Tom Temin All right. And then in other matters on the Hill, there is a bill for the burn pit issue for veterans. That’s been smoldering for a long time with Veterans Affairs. What would the legislation do?
Loren Duggan So this would make it easier for people who were exposed overseas to burn pits or other toxins, not just from the most recent conflicts, but there’s also provisions even going back to the Vietnam era. But the idea here is let’s make more veterans have access to some of the benefits, including disability and health care, that are available. This legislation has bipartisan support. It’s actually been passed by the House and Senate with nearly identical language in the past. But this one issue with tax language that got inserted by the Senate had to be addressed before they could do it. So it’s kind of come down to just floor time at this point to get it across the line. There’s broad bipartisan support, Jon Tester and Jerry Moran, who are the Democrat and Republican in charge of Veterans Affairs in the Senate, both back it. I would expect when they can get it to the floor have this vote, it should also be on its way to President Biden’s desk. This is a bill that’s gotten a lot of attention to from Jon Stewart who made it one of his top issues in recent years. We also saw him have success with 9/11 issues in the past, but he turned to this veterans burn pits issue and has been on the Hill many times pushing for it. So that should be done as well this week.
Tom Temin We’re speaking with Loren Dugan, deputy news director at Bloomberg Government and a hodgepodge in the House this week.
Loren Duggan That’s right. When you get towards one of these recesses, especially in election years, it feels like they’re clearing out the cupboards of a lot of things that don’t seem to go together. That’s sort of the way it is this week. A lot of bills that are important, some bipartisan, some will be big for individual member. We’re gonna see action this week on a 500 and some odd page wildfire bill that would authorize funding for wildfires, change some of the pay rules for the people hired by Interior and Agriculture to take care of fires on particularly western lands but you know, looking at fires around the country. There’s a bill that Mike Quigley has introduced, it’s come up before to regulate big cats, lions and tigers and who can own them, which is a big issue that came up in Tiger King — the series you’ll remember from earlier in the pandemic on Netflix. One of the main people in that, Carole Baskin, has been advocating for that bill. We’ll likely see a vote on that this week as well. And then you know anything else that they can get over the line before they leave for their break, which is scheduled to start this Friday in the House. We’ll see if they stick to that. If there’s something to stick around for, something to come back for, maybe they will. But there’s a lot of bills they’re going to try to tackle in the four days that they’re scheduled to be here this week.
Tom Temin And I guess outside of the federal bureaucratic issue, concern. [The] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, is on the burner these days because of what’s been going on with Russia and Ukraine.
Loren Duggan That’s right, the treaty that would allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO has to be agreed to by all the member countries. That is pending before the Senate after the Foreign Relations Committee approved it last week. There’s a lot of bipartisan interest in doing that. I think that’s another one of those can they get it to the floor and get the time. But I think we’ll see a broad bipartisan vote in support of adding those two countries to the alliance. They haven’t been in it and with things going on, as you say, with Russia and Ukraine, they have great interest in joining and I think the Senate will support that.
Tom Temin All right. And I guess we have to ask every week, what about budget for 2023? The plain old garden variety, appropriations.
Loren Duggan Right. Well, we saw the House pass six bills and one package last week, which is half of the dozen that have to be passed every year. There’s six more pending. Not clear that we’ll see votes on those before they leave for their August recess. The Senate Appropriations Committee hasn’t reported anything yet. Maybe we’ll see some draft bills before the end of July, before they leave for recess, that are kind of their points in negotiation. But still hanging over at all is there’s no agreement on how much to spend in total. Makes it hard to figure out how to spend that individually across the 12 bills. So a lot to go. Continuing resolution (CR) talk will definitely heat up at some point here and certainly when they come back in September, given that September 30 isn’t that far away.
Tom Temin And I guess the final hanging thing is the National Defense Authorization Act passed the House. What is the Senate status?
Loren Duggan The Senate’s bill is ready to be taken up at some point. It’s been reported out by the committee, it’s there. Again, floor time is always difficult. And that can take a lot of floor time, depending on what agreement that can reach on amendments. We might see that, I think, come up more likely in September than now. But that’ll be one of the priorities to wrap up by the end of the year if they can, because it’s been some 60 plus years that they’ve done that and no one wants to be the armed services chairman that doesn’t get that done.
Tom Temin Lauren Duggan is deputy news director at Bloomberg Government. As always, thanks so much.