Congress is attempting to initiate a bicameral conference process to rectify the differences between the House and Senate competitiveness packages—the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA, S.1260), which passed the Senate in July 2021, and the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act (H.R.4521), which passed the House in February 2022.
Brownstein has previously summarized and compared key provisions in both packages. That analysis can be found here.
This alert provides an update with respect to the conference process, including recent developments, anticipated timeline of action and thoughts on conferees.
Following House passage of the America COMPETES Act, the Senate voted on March 28 on an amended version that substituted it with the text of USICA.
On March 30, this amended version was then sent to the House, where it was disagreed to by unanimous consent. The House then approved by unanimous consent a motion to go to conference with the Senate. It also voted 351-74 on a nonbinding motion to instruct conferees to agree to section 2502 of USICA, which states that no person or entity “of concern” may receive grants, awards or other support from the National Science Foundation, federally funded manufacturing programs or technology hubs authorized by the bill.
The Senate has received the message from the House that it requests a conference, but has yet to act.
A formal process can only begin once the Senate votes to go to conference. There were hopes that could occur this week. However, the conference now appears as though it will be approved once the two chambers return from recess the week of April 25. The delay is due in large part to congested floor time.
The delay will not prevent negotiations from occurring, however. Congressional staff have been in discussions and are attempting to reach agreement on low-level issues to expedite the process once members return. Staff-level discussions are expected to continue during the upcoming two-week recess.
Although there remain some disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on provisions in the bill, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act funding—a central component of the legislation that provides $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and research—has widespread agreement in Congress.
On April 7, Republican and Democratic leadership in both chambers announced members who would participate in the conference committee.
Of the 106 conferees, 62, or 58%, are Democrats. Senate conferees are evenly split among Republicans and Democrats, but the House is more lopsided, with House Democrats representing 50 members and House Republicans representing only 31.
This does not mean House conferees will dictate the final package, however. In fact, Brownstein predicts most of the package (about 80%) will align with USICA as opposed to the America COMPETES Act.
For a full listing of the conferees and their committee assignments click here.
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