WASHINGTON, July 26 ― President Joe Biden met virtually yesterday with the chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp, Medtronic PLC and Cummins Inc along with labour leaders as part of the administration's push for legislation to boost the US semiconductor industry.

“Congress must pass this bill as soon as possible,” Biden said. “There is an economic imperative.... This bill is going to supercharge efforts to make semiconductors.”

The Senate's Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said he was delaying a procedural vote because of severe weather issues until today at 11am ET.

The Bill includes about US$52 billion (RM231.6 billion) in subsidies for US semiconductor production, as well as a new, four-year 25 per cent tax credit to encourage companies to build US semiconductor plants. The tax credit is estimated to be worth about US$24 billion. Other provisions include a US$1 billion grant programme for “persistently distressed communities.”

Last week, the Senate backed by 64 to 34 a procedural measure on a slimmed-down version of legislation.

Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet told Biden a robust supply of chips “is essential both to national security and to the health of the defence industrial base and the aerospace industry as a whole.”

The Bill aims to ease a shortage that has disrupted production in industries including automobiles, consumer electronics, medical equipment and high-tech weapons.

“This is about investing in the United States,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo who took part in the event. “America has become totally reliant on China particularly for” chips used in aircraft, medical devices and industrial machines.

It is part of a broad effort across the government to push back against an ascendant China and ease supply-chain problems by decreasing US companies' reliance on foreign-made semiconductors.

Senator Bernie Sanders blasted the legislation, calling it a “blank check” to the “enormously profitable” chips industry that was getting government funds to replace US factories they had closed over the last 20 years.

Biden rejected criticism that the legislation was a handout for big companies, noting Commerce would be able to claw back funds from firms that fail to honour their commitments.

In June 2021, the Senate approved a bipartisan US$250 billion Bill boosting spending on technology research and development. The House passed its own version in February. ― Reuters