U.S. Commerce chief urges Congress to act on chip funding by August

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo holds a briefing at the White House in Washington

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Monday urged U.S. lawmakers to complete action on a $52 billion boost in government funding for semiconductor production and research before Congress leaves for its August recess.

The U.S. Senate on June 8 voted 62-38 to approve the funding and to authorize $190 billion intended to boost the country's ability to compete with Chinese technology.

“It's vital, it's necessary and I hope they finish it and I hope they finish it soon – certainly before they break for summer recess in August," Raimondo told Reuters in a telephone interview. "All signals from the House have been positive that they support getting something done in a short period of time."

A worldwide chips shortage has forced automakers and other industries to cut production this year.

Raimondo said she does not see any significant differences between how House and Senate leaders view the semiconductor funding issue. She said it is still not clear what vehicle Congress will use to approve semiconductor funding, which she described as "fundamentally vital to national security and economic security."

Raimondo said she planned to speak soon with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the chips funding.

"I am just going to urge her do whatever needs to be done to get this through her chamber," Raimondo said. But she acknowledged the House will "want to put their stamp on this" and is not likely simply to approve the Senate bill, called the U.S. Innovation And Competition Act.

Asked if the administration had ruled out using the Defense Production Act to speed chips production, she said the focus was on action by Congress. "We're going to pursue that path for now," she said.

In May, Raimondo said she anticipated the government fundingwould generate "$150 billion-plus" in investment in chip production and research - including contributions from state andfederal governments and private-sector firms - and could result in seven to 10 new chip facilities.

She said her department would need to create teams to process and award funds - and noted it would take time to build the plants once money was awarded.

"The lead time is huge," Raimondo said. "The time to get started is yesterday."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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