Idaho federal lawmakers vote against semiconductor bill


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In case you were wondering how your Idaho senators and congressmen represent you and the state of Idaho with the flurry of laws passed by Congress these days, these are just bad new.

Bob Kustra
Bob Kustra

All four, the senses. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson – in a fit of partisan spite – voted against Micron’s expansion into Idaho and the possibility of new jobs for Idahoans and against the growing power check of China in the semiconductor industry by bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

China, Taiwan, and South Korea have entered the semiconductor space that the United States still dominates, but too much of that output from American companies has been exported to other countries like China.

With Micron playing a major role in chip production and with China challenging the United States in semiconductor production, President Biden crafted a new industrial policy in the Bill to Create Helpful Incentives for Semiconductor Production for America (CHIPS). He acknowledges that the United States has become too dependent on foreign semiconductor producers heavily subsidized by their governments. It offers financial incentives for American companies to build and expand in the United States, but with a ban on funding any company that engages in material expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in China or “other countries of concern.

And if that’s not reason enough to support the bill, it also provides funding for workforce training for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, research and development funding for communications technology security, supply chain research and innovation, and funding for national defense research and innovation.

Idaho-based Micron technology is a clear beneficiary of this effort to bring manufacturing back to the United States. Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra and Boise Mayor Lauren McLean recently witnessed President Biden signing the bill at the White House.

Homegrown Micron employs more than 7,000 people in the Boise area and is Idaho’s largest for-profit company. It was therefore not surprising to see its CEO and the mayor of Boise present at the signing.

McLean recently wrote a column for the Idaho Statesman highlighting the importance of supporting the CHIPS bill in order for Micron to remain a major employer in Idaho and an industry leader around the world. Mehrotra also wrote a guest opinion for the statesman pointing out that the United States invented semiconductor technology only to cede leadership to other countries in recent years. The CHIPS legislation was specifically designed to reverse the trend.

As Micron plans major expansion, Idaho is taking a keen interest in what Micron calls a massive manufacturing facility – a mega-fab.

The Idaho Legislature stepped in last session when it passed a law exempting sales tax from building materials used to build, expand or upgrade semiconductor factories in Idaho, an obvious message. to Micron that Idaho strongly favors a location in Idaho for its new facility.

Governor Brad Little signed the bill and he joined several governors in a bipartisan letter to congressional leaders urging support for the bill they say would restore US domestic manufacturing superiority. .

Given the strategic importance of the bill, both from the point of view of building more manufacturing plants here in the United States and the more critical connection to Micron’s plans, you would assume that the delegation of Congress in Idaho would agree with such a critical vote essential for Idaho to stay in the hunt for Micron’s expansion plans.

Rather, it’s an assumption you could only make decades ago, before the Republican Party was hijacked by the radical right that in Idaho is turning the docile minds of its four DC lawmakers. into partisan pawns. Puppets of Idaho’s right-wing fringe, they rarely, if ever, join in bipartisan roll calls, even in the interests of national security and Idaho’s own economy.

Conservative Texas Republicans didn’t see it that way.

Republican Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, a high-profile supporter, expressed support for the bill, saying it would create jobs for Texans. While Risch and Crapo deserted Idaho on the roll call vote, their Senate colleague, John Cornyn, led the effort to pass the law. And two Texas House Republicans voted for the bill.

Hmmm. Now, why couldn’t the Idaho congressional delegation see the clear benefit the bill offers to states like Texas and Idaho?

The only answer is the current state of the Idaho Republican Party, which nominates and elects those who are singularly committed to re-election and draws inspiration from the Idaho Freedom Foundation and grassroots supporters who have no responsibility for govern, no responsibility to represent a state in our nation’s capital, or any apparent concern for the success of Idaho’s economy and national security.

You would think that the pandemic alone and our reliance on China for basic health protections like face masks would be enough to get Americans to vote, to vote for a bill specifically designed to bring jobs home and protect Americans against a future time when we cannot access critical ingredients from a robust supply chain. No, Idaho lawmakers would rather sit idly by while China fuels its semiconductor industry with all the government support it needs to beat the United States at its game.

Republican lawmakers who voted against the bill came out with tired, worn-out arguments about how they won’t subsidize businesses with your tax dollars.

Risch and Crapo complained that the bill added “untied” funding to the semiconductor bill. Unconnected ? What they call unrelated is significant research funding for supply chain innovation and telecommunications security, vital to our national security. Think about it the next time you try to buy a car, computer or other product while waiting for the semiconductors to complete the manufacturing process.

If the CHIPS bill were a proposal from the Republican President, we would hear the entire Idaho congressional delegation raving about the importance of the bill to our national security. And Crapo, who complains about the national debt when Democratic presidents are in power, seems to forget about it when Republicans take office. The roll calls in both chambers were most likely carefully constructed roll calls to give some Republicans the green light to vote for the bill, but others had to vote ‘no’ just so it wouldn’t look like a victory. overwhelming bipartisanship for President Biden.

The so-called “untied” funding that Risch and Crapo complain about is in the same vein as the federal government funding that fueled the creation of the Internet. The World Wide Web was invented by researchers working on a government grant, and the GPS system has become part of our daily lives. encouraging innovation in the supply chain, domestic manufacturing and improving national security technologies, among several priorities.

With China gasping for air thanks to heavily subsidized semiconductor manufacturing, standing on arguments that only play into the strategic plans of our international competitors makes no sense. The CHIPS bill is as American as apple pie and as critical to Idaho as potatoes, but Idaho’s congressional delegation was more concerned about offending Trump voters in the next primary than by building a stronger economy for their state and nation.

Bob Kustra served as president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He hosts Readers Corner on Boise State Public Radio and writes a bi-weekly column for the Idaho Statesman. He served two terms as lieutenant governor of Illinois and 10 years as a state legislator.

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