President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a pair of bills that are being worked out between the House and the Senate, saying they will create good-paying jobs and boost domestic manufacturing, which is a key issue with Midwestern voters.
Biden was speaking in Hamilton, Ohio. The onetime battleground state has trended Republican in recent years, and the GOP is trying to hold on to a Senate seat there this year.
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"Along with the innovation bill in front of Congress, all of this is going to address what is on everyone’s minds — fighting inflation, getting prices down,” Biden said. "The pandemic and the economic crisis that we inherited, and Putin’s war in Ukraine, have all shown the vulnerability when we become too reliant on things made overseas.”
The legislation Biden wants to pass will promote semiconductor manufacturing while aiming to smooth supply chain wrinkles. The House has passed the America COMPETES Act, and the Senate has passed the companion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Though the White House has dubbed the bills the Bipartisan Innovation Act, they won't be combined without a fight.
Despite being named the Bipartisan Innovation Act, support for the legislation is not universal. The Senate bill passed by a relatively comfortable 68-32 vote, but the House bill scraped by 222-210 along party lines.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) rebranded the House bill the "America Concedes Act," and talk from the GOP indicates its senior members are ready with knives in hand to trim the fat from the bill.
"Without major concessions and changes from House Democrats, this legislation has no chance of becoming law," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Undeterred, Biden spoke of what he described as an urgent need for the legislation in order to keep America ahead of the rest of the world.
“The private sector has told us they can’t do it alone,” Biden said, adding that 2% of America's GDP used to be invested in research and development, a figure that has dropped below 1%. “I’m a capitalist. I’m here and I believe in the free market. But I believe in a federal government’s obligation to invest in America itself, invest in American workers. We’re at risk of falling behind.”
He was preceded at the podium by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who stood onstage behind him as he spoke. Brown repeated his mantra that it was time to bury the term "Rust Belt." Also in attendance were executives from manufacturing firms, including Honeywell Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Siemens North America, and Raytheon.
Prior to the speech, Biden met with manufacturing leaders and toured United Performance Metals in Hamilton, located 20 miles from Cincinnati.
Weakened supply chains and a lack of semiconductor chips from Asia have led to high inflation, Biden argued, saying the bill can ease inflationary pressure while reviving American manufacturing. The United States used to produce 40% of the world's semiconductors but now barely manages 10%, he has said previously.
Intel is investing $20 billion to build a semiconductor megasite outside Columbus, Ohio, a figure the White House says would grow to $100 billion if Congress passes the bill.
A fact sheet released by the White House ahead of the speech touted more than $200 billion in investments in new manufacturing facilities since Biden took office. Roughly 7.9 million new jobs have been created since early 2021, of which 473,000 are in manufacturing. It's the highest number of new jobs in the first 14 months of any presidential term, though critics point out that Biden inherited an economy that remains severely depressed by COVID-related restrictions.
“We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t fight inflation if supply chains buckle and send prices through the roof every time there's a disruption," said Biden. “There have been constant disruptions, particularly in South Asia.”
The Bipartisan Innovation Act would establish a Supply Chain Office at the Department of Commerce and increase funding for the Manufacturing USA Institutes and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
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The president wrapped up his remarks by touting America's diversity and labor unions as its strength, saying the country will show that it can outcompete China in the 21st century.
“We’ve got to up our game. It’s a simple proportion,” said Biden. “Pass the damn bill, and send it to me."