Cantwell Speaks about Urgency for Congress to Move Forward with Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation

March 21, 2022

Senate takes important step with overwhelming vote (66-29) to invoke cloture on house COMPETES Act 

Committee to hear from Intel, PACCAR and Micron CEOs Wednesday on semiconductor shortage 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the Senate floor tonight on the urgency for Congress to move bipartisan innovation competitiveness legislation forward.  Following Sen. Cantwell’s remarks, the Senate voted 66-29 to invoke cloture on H.R. 4521, the America COMPETES Act.  Sen. Cantwell led the Senate in passing the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), last year. This week, the Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 23 on the importance of the semiconductor supply chain and CHIPS legislation with CEOs from Intel, Micron, PACCAR Inc, and Lam Research.

“It has been 286 days since the United States Senate passed this legislation,” Sen. Cantwell said. “And we have an opportunity to help establish, on a continued basis, American leadership in technology, to employ more people to help our country compete in the economy of the future. But we can't do that if we don't get legislation passed and we can't continue to wait for people who don't want to go to conference.”



Sen. Cantwell’s full remarks:

“Madam President, I really wanted to speak to our colleagues asking them to support moving forward on going to conference on the United States Innovation and Competition Act. 

“It has been 286 days since the United States Senate passed this legislation. And we have an opportunity to help establish, on a continued basis, American leadership in technology, to employ more people to help our country compete in the economy of the future. But we can't do that if we don't get legislation passed and we can't continue to wait for people who don't want to go to conference. 

“Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have to help us get to conference. This is so important, Madam President, because by 2030, there could be more than 10 million new jobs in clean energy, advanced manufacturing, communication, and in computing. All of those, guess what, depend on us making sure that we do the right amount of R&D and making sure that we help in bringing U.S. manufacturing back to the United States. 

“This is so critical as Americans are feeling the pinch from products that they can't get. We all know that we have to help small manufacturers who struggle with the supply chain themselves. That is why this bill invests in the National Institute [of Standards and] Technology to help us -- help companies strengthen their supply chain and fend off the threats of cybersecurity attacks. We also know that there's money in here to help educate a STEM workforce so that we can train and skill the number of people in STEM jobs that we need. 

“But let's talk specifically about one supply chain crisis that is crippling America's economy right now because we don't have semiconductors. Semiconductors are an integral part of critical systems used in communications, defense, healthcare, and transportation. And yet, there are zero semiconductor fabrication facilities in the United States that produce the most advanced chips. That’s what we’re after, Madam President, the most advanced chips. The United States must keep its leadership in this area of advanced technology. 

“In fact, over 90% of these chips are manufactured in the Pacific -- in Taiwan. The rest are made in South Korea. So this is an economic and national security issue. Chip shortages drive up costs and they also make us less safe. 

“We know, thanks to a report from the Senate Armed Service Committee ten years ago, that more than one million counterfeit components… made their way into our national security system. So we've been fighting hard to fix that problem. Just this month, EUROPOL reported that counterfeiters are trying to exploit the semiconductor shortage by introducing fake chips into the market, raising the chances that critical infrastructure like our defense systems or other kinds of communication systems could be compromised. 

“So we've also been working hard to ‘rip and replace’ -- a term that's been used to try to get foreign telecommunication electronics that could be compromised and used as a backdoor to try and make sure that we lower this threat.  According to the telecommunications industry, this effort is compromised by what? Our chip shortage, which now we know that waiting times for some network equipment is now at 50 weeks. 50 weeks for something that's so important to our national security. 

“The cost of some networking equipment has risen by as much as 12%. You hear about the cost of everything. You certainly hear about the cost of cars.  So 12% and people are selling chips for 100 times their regular price. That is no way to us build out secure broadband access.  When it comes to clean energy, which requires chips, the prices of solar panels are up 18% because of the chip shortage and the cost of a used car has gone up 41% and 12% for new cars.

“So a lot is due to the semiconductor shortage, yet our colleagues don’t know if we want to hurry, after 286 days, go to conference and fix this problem.  

“I'm asking my colleagues to vote and to help us proceed to conference. Let's not take another 3 and a half, four weeks, to figure it out.  If you don't like the house bill, I know a lot of my colleagues don't, let's get a better bill and go to conference to get that done. 

“We know right now, depending on one country largely for chip manufacturing is not the best idea, particularly when there are numerous issues. It's just been over 18 months since security researchers found a hacking campaign that compromised at least seven Taiwanese manufacturers, to steal chip designs. Do we want to continue to rely on these other countries or do we want to manufacture here in the United States of America something so critical to…the industries of the future and help us by making sure that we have a plan never to have these kind of price spikes impact us because of shortages? 

“I ask my colleagues -- these R&D bills are going to help us with U.S. manufacturing. They are so important. In addition to the semiconductor manufacturing incentives that are in these bills, it specifically has resources for the Department of Defense to secure microelectronics supply chains and help our national security mission. 

“That's what's at stake here. Why are we delaying? If you don’t like these ideas, at least let's get on the bill and offer some ideas in conference that you would like to see. We're more than happy to have that discussion. 

“[I]ndustry is taking action to try to resolve the shortages, but investing in semiconductor manufacturing technology will actually help us increase the productivity that is so essential and needed for our foundries. Our current shortages -- some people who might think, well, in a few years we'll catch up and it will be a thing of the past -- I will tell you, if we don't act, more shortages are to follow. 

“The world needed one trillion chips by 2018. In 2021, it was nearly 1.2 trillion chips per year. That is how our economy changed and everyone relies on these semiconductors. In 2031, if the total sales match the revenue projection, we will need 2 [trillion] chips per year. So that is why we need to act quickly on something that is impacting practically every day parts of our lives. 

“Current projections show that demand for chips will grow in all sectors, especially the automotive sector, where semiconductors… in vehicles could double. Now, Madam President, I don't know, I hear a lot of talk as I went home to hear about these issues. But some people are saying that maybe people are taking semiconductors out of the current designs of automobiles so they can get the product ready to ship. Why do we want that? We don't want that. We want America to have a full supply of semiconductors, produce the best product the market wants, and compete internationally. But to do that we have to get this bill moving and we have to get support. 

“Madam President, that is why [Wednesday] we're having members of the semiconductor industry testify before the Senate Commerce Committee so we can hear about how the United States can have next-generation technology and lead in this critical area. We do not want to rely on someone else to make sure that we have a secure nation, secure communication and the next generation that is going to move our industry, particularly manufacturers, to be competitive in a global economy. 

“So the choice in front of us is whether we want the United States to have a leading role in chip fabrication and in R&D and whether we're going to meet that demand. If you're ready to take that, please help us get to conference. 

“It can take three to five years from when a foundry is built to when production begins. And every day that we don't move to pass USICA, it's another day that U.S. manufacturers are waiting. 

“This bill means investment in our future, it means investment in securing our supply chain, it means investments that will protect us from these kind of spike hikes in the future. It’s an investment worth well worth meeting if Congress will act. And I encourage my colleagues to do so. I thank the President. I yield the floor.”

Video of Cantwell’s floor speech is available here.