Slotkin: Why Michigan needs Congress to pass the CHIPS Act now

 In America

Slotkin: Why Michigan needs Congress to pass the CHIPS Act now

July 19, 2022

By Elissa Slotkin

In the latest stage of the microchip shortage, we find ourselves in a critical chapter. We all know that these thumbnail-sized chips power our lives in general, and they’re especially important for Michigan’s economy — there’s an average of 100 chips in our cars. No one can get a steady supply of chips, mostly because the U.S. makes a whopping 0% of the advanced ones used in cars. But right now, this month, we have a rare opportunity to start making these chips in the U.S. Unfortunately, our leaders in Congress are putting that chance at risk.

Let me explain. In early 2021, just as Michigan was starting to emerge from the worst of COVID, my team got a call from GM: Their Lansing Grand River plant in my district would be shutting down indefinitely because of a parts shortage. GM couldn’t get enough microchips, and we were warned that this could be the start of a long-term issue, and not just for GM. The next day, the plant’s assembly lines stopped and the lights went out.

I would personally like to see the larger House bill pass, but for our national and economic security, I’ll settle for the CHIPS Act on its own, Slotkin writes.
Sixteen months later, the chip shortage has wreaked havoc on our economy. Auto plants and parts suppliers in Michigan and around the country are opening and closing their lines day-by-day — leaving tens of thousands of workers in the lurch. Meanwhile, all kinds of electronics are backordered and prices are soaring.

A few months after that plant shut down, Congress started working on a bill called the CHIPS Act, which would provide $52 billion to incentivize U.S. companies to employ American workers to make microchips here instead of Asia. It was a recognition, on both sides of the aisle, that chips were central to our economic and national security. And if the last two and a half years have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t rely on other countries, especially China, for our manufacturing needs.

Last summer, the Senate passed the CHIPS Act as part of a larger bill. The House put the CHIPS Act into a bigger bill of its own, which passed in February. Foot dragging ensued for months until negotiations on a combined, compromise bill began. But incentivizing an American chips industry has bipartisan support. Republicans, Democrats, independents, industry and labor are in lockstep on how important it is to diversify the chip supply chain.

In anticipation of a bipartisan deal, Intel announced it would build a brand new plant in Ohio to manufacture microchips — a $20 billion investment that will create 10,000 new jobs and help secure a steady supply of U.S.-made chips. But now, with the legislation languishing, Intel announced last month that it’s delaying the work — and the jobs — at the new plant.

So what’s holding us back? Put simply, the worst of Washington politics has gotten in the way. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waited too long to pass the House version, and now Senator Mitch McConnell refuses to negotiate a compromise bill in an effort to stop unrelated legislation from moving forward.

Meanwhile, we continue our dependence on Asia and our own economic security continues to be held in the hands of foreign suppliers. So what should we do? I come from the school that says half a loaf is better than no loaf.

Congress should pull the CHIPS Act from both the House and Senate bills and pass it on its own. I would personally like to see the larger House bill pass, but for our national and economic security, I’ll settle for the CHIPS Act on its own.

If Congressional leaders screw this up, the consequences will be dire — for our military, for American manufacturers and for workers in Michigan and around the country. This is one of the most important national and economic security bills we’ve considered in the last two decades, and squandering it would be a huge victory for China.

This isn’t a theoretical issue for us in Michigan or for the Pentagon, which needs these chips for planes, trucks and tanks. We’re at an inflection point in the story of chips in America, and Michigan residents should be banging pots and pans to help push this over the finish line.

We have only four weeks left to legislate, and with so much at stake for our state, Michigan needs to make its voice heard.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, represents Michigan’s 8th District.

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