Originally published July 18 on KTVB.COM.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote as soon as Thursday on legislation that would provide tax credits and other incentives for companies to produce semiconductors in this country — legislation that figures to play a pivotal role in whether Boise-based Micron Technology expands in Idaho or instead looks to other countries.
“If the U.S. doesn’t act now, we will fall further behind in our global semiconductor production and jeopardize our technological and military advantage,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Monday during a media call organized by the White House. “Semiconductors are unique in their importance. They underpin every single technology. They’re necessary to make every single piece of advanced military equipment, and the reality is the United States is overly dependent on foreign countries for our supply of chips, which makes us incredibly vulnerable.”
The commerce secretary pointed to Russia as an example of why access to advanced semiconductor chips is of strategic importance.
“The United States has denied Russia access to semiconductor chips and, as a result, you’re literally seeing military equipment, Russian military equipment, falling out of the sky because it doesn’t work, because it has chips in that equipment that Russians have taken from dishwashers and refrigerators and put in the military equipment,” Raimondo said. “That could be us. If senators vote no this week, that could be the United States, because we are entirely dependent on Taiwan for our most sophisticated chips.”
Raimondo, a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet, said Idaho and Texas are “at the forefront of the American effort to build more semiconductors,” and she said Republican Senators Mike Crapo of Idaho and John Cornyn of Texas are leading the charge on what’s been called CHIPS for America legislation.
“We know that these companies that are in your states have offers right now from other countries to expand there. We know that they’ll take those offers if Congress doesn’t do its job this week and pass this CHIPS Act,” she said.
Crapo and Sen. Jim Risch, both Idaho Republicans, are among the Senate-appointed conferees who have been working to resolve differences between House and Senate legislation in order to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act. A White House communications staffer said President Biden is looking to secure the funding for $52 billion worth of semiconductor manufacturing incentives and grants in congressional votes this week, then have Congress work on other related elements over the next month or two.
A procedural vote on the bill was set for Tuesday night; neither Idaho senator had any comment at press time. Marty Cozza, press secretary for Risch, said the full vote on the bill isn’t expected before Thursday.
Roll Call reported Tuesday afternoon that the Tuesday procedural vote was set as a “test” vote to help determine which elements would be included in the bill and which wouldn’t; its passage wasn’t in doubt, with Senate leaders instead focused on the level of support.
In October 2021, Micron announced the company’s intention to invest more than $150 billion over the next decade on memory manufacturing and research and development, including “potential” expansion in the U.S. At the time, Micron President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said the company looked forward to “working with governments around the world, including in the U.S.” Micron called incentives and funding to support semiconductor manufacturing capacity “critical to potential expansion of U.S. manufacturing.”
Raimondo on Monday confirmed Micron is looking at expansion of its fabrication plant in Boise, but did not have an estimate on how many jobs are at stake. Micron executives, she said, have told her “they need to expand because they won’t be able to fulfill their customers’ orders if they don’t expand. They need to move on this this year.”
“I think Idaho has a lot to lose by this not passing this week,” Raimondo added.
As lawmakers in Washington, DC, weigh the fate of proposed U.S. incentives, South Korea, Japan, Germany and France are already courting companies — including those based in the U.S. — with offers of incentives to build semiconductors, and the jobs that come with them, overseas.
“There’s a window that’s closing,” Raimondo said. “And we’re going to lose out to other countries if we don’t move now.”
Idaho Press staff contributed to this report.
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