24 Republicans break with leadership, vote with Democrats to pass computer chip bill

(WASHINGTON) — Another major legislative win for Democrats came Thursday, when — over Republican objections of “corporate welfare” — a bipartisan group in the House passed a bill that funds the nation’s science and technology industries with billions to boost domestic production of crucial semiconductor chips and additional research and development.

The bill cleared the chamber in a 243-187 vote (with one “present” vote) despite late-hour pushes from GOP leadership against the legislation. Twenty-four Republicans joined Democrats in backing the measure, which now heads to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.

One lawmaker, Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., whose grandfather Irwin Jacobs founded semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm, voted “present.”

“If you want to know who hates this bill, who lobbies against it — the Chinese Communist Party. Why? Because they know it’ll help us compete against them,” Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a major advocate of the package, told reporters while criticizing fellow Republicans for opposing the bill.

Rep. Frank Dean Lucas of Oklahoma, the ranking GOP member on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, took another view.

“Regrettably, and it’s more regrettably than you can possibly image, I will not be casting my vote for [the chips bill],” he said. “This is one of those occasions that as a statesman and responsible member of Congress, I have to put aside my own pride in science committee’s work and cast the vote that represents the best interest of Americans and, particularly, the good people of the third district of Oklahoma.”

Supporters of the $280 billion proposal highlight the roughly $52 billion it provides to incentivize the creation of semiconductor facilities and therefore increase the competitiveness of the industry in the U.S. at a time when countries like China dominate the sphere.

There’s a significant shortage of these chips, which serve as the “brain” of all kinds of technology in the U.S., from phones to appliances and cars and much more.

Many House Republicans supported the bill as recently as Wednesday, before the surprise news of a deal struck between Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on an expansive spending bill focused on Democratic priorities like climate, health care and corporate taxes.

Manchin had previously said he would not support climate and tax policies in the pending spending package, citing inflation. But Wednesday’s agreement, he said, would actually reduce the government deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Republicans were not pleased. Some had backed the microchip bill once they believed Manchin’s objections had killed Democrats’ spending plans. On Wednesday, shortly before Manchin publicly changed course, the Senate passed the chip bill 64-33 after more than a year of gridlock.

Club for Growth, a Washington-based economic organization, has maintained opposition to the bill — and called on House Republicans to vote no in light of the spending agreement between Manchin and Schumer, which Senate Democrats hope to approve before the August recess.

“The House GOP should kill CHIPS now that 17 Senate GOPers got played by Schumer & Manchin on reconciliation,” Club for Growth Vice President Scott T. Parkinson wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

“I was a no last week, I was a no last night, and I’ll be the first no on the board today,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on the floor Thursday, calling the measure “corporate welfare.”

The bill is also a top national security policy for the White House, with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, while briefing lawmakers earlier this month, calling its passage a “matter of urgency” and saying the country was “out of time” to act.

Biden issued a statement on the legislation shortly after it cleared the House, saying he “looks forward to signing this bill into law.”

“The CHIPS and Science Act is exactly what we need to be doing to grow our economy right now. By making more semiconductors in the United States, this bill will increase domestic manufacturing and lower costs for families. And, it will strengthen our national security by making us less dependent on foreign sources of semiconductors,” he said.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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