Portman, Brown Urge House & Senate Leaders to Swiftly Pass Revised Legislation to Invest in Manufacturing and Address Global Semiconductor Shortage


Bipartisan Legislation Will Strengthen U.S. Leadership in Science, Technology, and Innovation; While U.S. Delays, China & Other Global Competitors are Making Aggressive Investments in Manufacturing, Research, and Development


January 7, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators and Senate Auto Caucus co-chairs Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging swift passage of revised bipartisan legislation to invest in manufacturing and address the global semiconductor shortage facing auto manufacturing. Passage of bipartisan legislation like the CHIPS For America Act, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), and the inclusion of Portman and Brown’s Leveling the Playing Field 2.0 Act, would make a once-in-a-generation investment in American science, technology and innovation to help the U.S. preserve its competitive edge.

“The need for this funding is self-evident: over the summer, General Motors, Ford, and other automotive companies announced short-term plant closures in Lima and Toledo, in many cases due to pandemic-related production issues at overseas manufacturers of automotive-grade chips,” wrote the senators. “In light of the far-reaching consequences for our nation’s economy and national security, there is bipartisan consensus in favor of funding the CHIPS for America Act to catalyze new semiconductor investments in the United States – we should move quickly to ensconce that consensus in law.”

Congress has already provided a bipartisan solution to strengthen U.S. competitiveness by including the CHIPS for America Act in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The bipartisan USICA – which includes key provisions – will provide more than $50 billion to fully implement this important program. In June, the Senate passed USICA, which invests in American workers and our nation’s long-term competitiveness by shoring up critical industries like semiconductors, which are facing a global shortage. All sectors of the economy need access to semiconductor chips; however, the need is particularly significant for the domestic auto industry. Today’s cars include high-end electronic components that improve vehicle efficiency and safety, and these electronic components rely upon semiconductors to function.

Portman and Brown have been working to secure solutions for the semiconductor crisis for months. The senators led colleagues in sending a letter to Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council, in February, urging the administration to support efforts to secure the necessary funding to swiftly implement the semiconductor-related provisions in the most recent NDAA, to boost semiconductor manufacturing and incentivize the domestic production of semiconductors in the future.

In April, Portman and Brown introduced the Leveling the Playing Field 2.0 Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws and ensure they remain effective tools to fight back against unfair trade practices and protect American workers. The Senators’ legislation would establish the new concept of “successive investigations” to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. trade remedy system in responding to repeat offenders and serial cheaters, helping to level the playing field for American workers. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) introduced companion legislation in the House.

The full letter can be found below and here.

Dear Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:

We write to urge swift passage of a revised United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) to strengthen American economic competitiveness and reinvest in American manufacturing jobs. The USICA contains a number of provisions which will benefit Ohio, such as funding for the CHIPS for America Act and investments in research and manufacturing programs. Yet it also lacks provisions to enforce U.S. trade laws against countries, like China, who engage in unfair economic practices. We believe that the time and effort spent on the USICA should not be wasted, and Congress should work together to send this legislation with an amended trade title to the President’s desk without delay.  

Coming on the heels of an unprecedented shortage of semiconductors, exacerbated by foreign governments luring this sector abroad and U.S. overreliance on overseas production, we applauded the USICA for including $52 billion to fund the CHIPS for America Act. The need for this funding is self-evident: over the summer, General Motors, Ford, and other automotive companies announced short-term plant closures in Lima and Toledo, in many cases due to pandemic-related production issues at overseas manufacturers of automotive-grade chips. In light of the far-reaching consequences for our nation’s economy and national security, there is bipartisan consensus in favor of funding the CHIPS for America Act to catalyze new semiconductor investments in the United States – we should move quickly to ensconce that consensus in law.

In addition to funding for semiconductor investment, the USICA also contains a panoply of provisions designed to support innovation and strengthen Ohio’s manufacturing base broadly. For example, expansion of the Manufacturing USA Institutes would immediately invest in manufacturing innovation, such as the “America Makes” Institute in Youngstown. Additionally, the USICA’s increase in funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the Department of Commerce would help expand Ohio’s network of MEPs such as the Manufacturing Extension Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) in Cleveland. Finally, the bill’s assistance for research and development (R&D) and early career research will support the innovation that spurs economic growth. In agreement with the findings of academic researchers, we believe that investments in R&D and manufacturing innovation will act as strong multipliers to private investment.

Despite these successes, the USICA does contain one glaring deficiency. It does not include any provisions to strengthen our trade remedy laws. Given that our trade remedy laws comprise the nation’s first defense against unfair foreign economic practices and offshoring, especially against non-market actors like China, it is vital that the USICA include trade remedy provisions. Otherwise, the bill will undermine its new investments in manufacturing. Fortunately, we have developed a bipartisan, bicameral proposal to give the U.S. government new tools to respond to the creative ways in which China targets our industrial base. Consider the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): right now, the Department of Commerce cannot combat subsidies provided by third countries as China does with the BRI. For the first time, our legislation gives the Department of Commerce tools to combat those subsidies. Therefore, we urge you to include our Eliminating Global Market Distortions to Protect American Jobs Act of 2021—also known as the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0—to any USICA compromise. As members of the Ohio congressional delegation, we strongly support the inclusion of this bill in USICA to ensure our Ohio industries and manufacturing companies are not lost to unfair trade practices.

In the face of COVID-19 challenges and unprecedented investments by global competitors, we urge you to lead both houses to adopt a final revised version of USICA that can be enacted promptly. With the inclusion of Leveling the Playing Field 2.0, we believe the investments in this bill have the potential to transform Ohio’s economy. 

                                                                                    Sincerely,

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