Floor Speech

Date: April 7, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, watching the wrapup by our friend from Connecticut and the Presiding Officer, I don't know anybody who could argue that the Senate is incapable of getting a lot done in a short period of time, given the will. That was pretty remarkable.

Mr. President, nearly 10 months after the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to fund the CHIPS Act, we are finally inching closer to the finish line. The House and the Senate are moving forward to a formal conference process to supply the CHIPS Program with $52 billion and make other investments in our competitiveness.

Yesterday afternoon, Members of the Senate and the House heard from administration officials about how important this legislation is. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo spoke about the economic risks of a weak semiconductor supply chain.

I might just pause here for a minute in case people are wondering why semiconductors are so important. Well, the fact of the matter is that semiconductors are essential to run everything from your cell phone to the most advanced stealth fighters made by the U.S. Government, the F- 35, and everything in between. And during the pandemic and the mitigation efforts that we undertook, with kids studying remotely on their laptops, that would not be possible, nor would the Wi-Fi connections be possible without access to semiconductors. So these microcircuits have become absolutely essential to our way of life.

Over the last couple of years, manufacturers have had to halt production of the various products that they make, shift their offerings, or even lay off workers because of a shortage of these semiconductors, these microcircuit chips. Now, at the micro level, this disruption is having a big impact on consumers: empty car lots, backordered electronics, higher prices on home appliances. But at the 30,000-foot level, the macro level, this is terribly damaging to our national economy.

The semiconductor shortage has shaved an estimated $240 billion off of our gross domestic product last year-- $240 billion lost because of an inadequate access to these semiconductors, these microcircuits. Based on the way that things are trending, the strain is only going to get greater. Global demand for these semiconductor chips is expected to increase by 56 percent over the next decade.

If you think about it, our dependency on technology is going to do nothing but get greater and greater and greater; hence, the demand and the need for these semiconductors and the demand that will go up by 56 percent, it is estimated, in the next decade.

It is absolutely critical that we start investing in domestic, made- in-America semiconductors now to insure that we have the capacity to meet that need in the future. And it is not just our economy. This has a very clear connection with our national security.

Not only will the CHIPS Program, as it is called--introduced originally by the senior Senator from Virginia, Senator Warner, and myself--this program will help us pave the way for new jobs and big investments in cities all across our country.

If you want an idea, a glimpse, of just what those benefits would look like, my State is an example of one place that will change dramatically as a result of this demand for these microcircuits.

Last fall, I joined leaders from Samsung, a South Korean company that has a large presence in Austin, TX, and they announced a $17 billion investment in a new chip fab--that is what the manufacturing facilities are called, a fab, fabrication unit--in Taylor, TX, which is just outside of Austin. This facility is expected to directly create 2,000 high-tech jobs, as well as thousands of related jobs, once it is operational. And each of these fabrication manufacturing facilities will create a whole ecosystem of suppliers that will grow up around it. So the $17 billion spent by Samsung for just this one fabrication facility will be multiplied by many times in terms of the economic benefits and the jobs created.

This is great news not just for my State, for Texas, but also for the national economy and for our global competitiveness. Our friends and allies are going to need a reliable chip supply, too, and I hope that we can soon send advanced semiconductors, made in America, to countries around the world.

Once this CHIPS Program is funded, I expect more announcements like the one I mentioned from Samsung to follow, both in Texas and other States across the country. We have already seen Taiwan Semiconductor in the process of building a new fab, or manufacturing facility, in Arizona. You have seen new investments announced by Intel in Ohio, along with the one by Samsung in Texas, and I believe there are more to come.

This legislation would open up about $3 billion for each new or expanded semiconductor fabrication facility, providing a huge incentive for companies to make this level of investment right here in America.

The potential economic benefits speak for themselves, but the biggest reason to pass this legislation is to protect our national security. Chips are critical components of far more than just the cell phones and washing machines that I mentioned. Advanced fighters, quantum computers, missile defense systems--you name it--5G, all of those rely on semiconductors. A single rocket interceptor like we have seen used in Iron Dome in Israel, knocking down rockets coming from Gaza, each of those interceptors alone uses 750 of these microcircuits.

An overreliance on other countries to produce these key components of our most vital defenses is a huge, huge risk. Yesterday, in addition to Secretary Raimondo, we heard from Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who talked about the immense national security risk that the failure to produce these most advanced semiconductors in America has opened up. Just to be clear, we produce zero of these most advanced semiconductors that we depend upon for the most complex technology, including our national security.

Our military superiority really hinges on state-of-the-art technology. That is the one thing that we do better than any other country in the world. If we can't produce these products because of a lack of chips, well, the risk is obvious. And when you look at who is producing the lion's share of the world's chips, you can see the danger to which we are very clearly exposed.

Now, I blame COVID for exposing these vulnerable supply chains, whether it is PPE or it is chips, but now, it is as plain as the nose on your face, and we need to do something about it.

So here are the facts. The vast majority of semiconductors are made in Asia, with 63 percent of the most advanced semiconductors in the world made in one place, and that is Taiwan.

Even more concerning is the 92 percent of the world's most advanced semiconductors that come, as I said, from Asia. But if that supply chain, both from Asia and Taiwan in particular, were cut off, it would lead to disastrous consequences. Unfortunately, this prospect is not some farfetched conspiracy theory or doomsday scenario.

Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to invade and unify Taiwan with the People's Republic of China, even saying he wants to be ready to do so by the year 2027, just 5 years from now. But we can't depend on his stated timetable because he could do it any time he wanted to start that invasion and jeopardize our access to these chips.

We don't want to be in a position--we can't be in a position--where the belligerence of one nation impacts our most critical supply chains. The war in Ukraine has made that clear. Put simply, we need to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and we have not a moment to waste. Chip making is a very big endeavor.

A number of our colleagues and I traveled to Taiwan a few months back to Taiwan Semiconductor's facility there, where they, as I said, make the world's leading-edge semiconductors. It is a big operation, and it is highly automated and very complex and expensive. In order to build one chip, you need very expensive, highly advanced equipment; you need skilled workers; and you need a lot of time. It can take literally months to build a single chip, and that is assuming you have the facility and the equipment ready to go.

So it is clear, in light of this vulnerability that we have in this essential supply chain, that we have squandered enough time already. After the Senate passed our version of this legislation, it took 8 months to get it back from the House of Representatives. Even then, their bill fell short in nearly every regard. Rather than mirror the bipartisan process here in the Senate, the Democrats in the House negotiated a bill just among their fellow Democrats. In other words, it was a partisan bill. That type of legislating does not lead to good and sustainable results here in Congress.

The House-passed bill sends a whopping $8 billion to a U.N. climate slush fund which has provided more than $100 million to China. The entire purpose of this effort is to counter threats from China, not to bolster China's economy with taxpayer dollars. So it defies all logic to send billions of dollars to an unaccountable fund that could end up helping our chief competitor, the People's Republic of China.

The House COMPETES Act also added provisions relating to immigration, from creating new types of visas to removing green card caps. I am fine with having a discussion and debate and votes on immigration issues, but they do not belong in this legislation, certainly not in a partisan fashion.

In true fashion, our colleagues in the House who are the majority party added a range of handouts to their political base, especially organized labor. From massive slush funds to burdensome new labor requirements, the unions would have won big in this bill.

And, as I said, unfortunately, the House decided to undertake this effort in a purely partisan fashion, which leaves us with very little common ground to work with. I am frustrated, and I know that I am not the only one. There are Democratic Senators who have joined me in expressing their frustration over how slow it is to get this process moving. But it is more important to get it done right away so we can get the job done as thoroughly as necessary.

Well, there is broad bipartisan support for this effort. I have a hard time explaining to my friends and constituents that when the White House is in favor of something, when Democrats are in favor of something, Republicans are in favor of something, the House is in favor of it, and the Senate is in favor of it, we still can't seem to get it done. But I hope that we will take advantage of this opportunity--now that conferees have been appointed by the House and the White House--to get the conference committee to work, to do our job, and to get this bill on the President's desk as soon as we can. I fully expect the final version to look very much like the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate rather than the partisan bill that came from the House.

I expressed to the Senator from Washington, Ms. Cantwell, that I hope we can work efficiently and reach a final agreement as soon as possible. It is critical that we get a strong bill to the President's desk and finally back this CHIPS Program with funding and protect ourselves from this, really, almost existential economic threat and threat to our national security.

The bill has undergone a number of name changes over the years. It started out as the Endless Frontier Act. Then it became the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Then the House called it the America COMPETES Act. Then we gave it a new name: the Made in America Act. But now, we have a new name--and hopefully the final name--called the Bipartisan Innovation Act.

I hope we can work together to craft a truly good bill that lives up to that title, the Bipartisan Innovation Act, and delivers economic and national security benefits for all of the American people.