President Biden opened with brief virtual remarks on the importance of passing the CHIPS Act at 3:01 p.m., calling it an “important and timely discussion.” He was dressed in a dark suit jacket, a light blue dress shirt, and a blue-striped tie. The President tuned in virtually from the White House residence with a partially obscured fireplace and a table lined with photos in the background.
NEC Director Brian Deese helped lead the discussion that touched upon the national security and economic importance of the CHIPS Act.
Jim Taiclet, the Chairman, President, and CEO of Lockheed Martin, told the President about the importance of having a “robust, secure supply” of microprocessors for national security reasons. He noted the President’s visit to the Javelin production plant in Alabama earlier in the year.
During the discussion, the President said he had been impressed by the workers at the Alabama plant and asked Taiclet how passing the legislation would help ensure that systems stay on the leading edge.
The President also heard from Defense Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who spoke of the US’s “tech competition” with China, and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who spoke of the importance of maintaining “our innovation edge.”
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the President that it was important for Congress to get the legislation “over the finish line and onto your desk this week. It’s vital.” She noted that the US remains behind the rest of the world in the production of chips and is “utterly dependent upon Taiwan” for its chips supply. “Chips are a cornerstone technology that underpin our entire economy,” Raimondo said. She said it was “not a subsidy for big companies” but about investing in US workers.
Geoff Martha, Chairman, and CEO of Medtronic spoke of the importance of semiconductors to the medical technology industry – from insulin pumps to pacemakers and ventilators. He also talked about the need for expanded research and development.
Tom Linebarger, Chairman, and CEO of Cummins, said the shortage of semiconductors made it more challenging to meet customer demand. He said the company is frequently forced to pay as much as 10-times the regular cost “just to make sure that we can keep trucks on the road.”
Chris Shelton, the President of the Communications Workers of America, told the President that passing the bill would help create jobs and strengthen the US’s ability to compete with China. “This bill is a key part of rebuilding our manufacturing sector as a whole,” Shelton said.
Biden asked Linebarger about the use of semiconductors in electric vehicles and charging stations and the importance of the legislation to those technologies. Mr. Linebarger said the industry is behind because of the lack of available semiconductors, but it offered ample opportunity for the US. “We need to invest now. Time is running out for us to get to the lead,” he said.
“When I think about climate change, I think about jobs,” said Mr. Biden, who also asked Mr. Shelton about Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions.
Biden referenced Intel’s major semiconductor investment in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s going to create a whole lot of jobs.”
The President then wrapped up the meeting by discussing the importance of passing the bill for the nation’s economic competitiveness.
“Congress must pass this bill as soon as possible so we can get it to my desk,” Biden said. He pointed to the economic imperative of making semiconductors in the US and the national security implications, referencing his previous trip to the Alabama plant. He framed it as a competition with China, which he said was watching the legislation closely and actively lobbying businesses against the bill.
“America invented the semiconductor. It’s time we bring it home,” Biden said. He also spoke of the guardrails contained in the legislation. “We’re not going to allow these companies to use these funds to buy back stock or issue dividends,” he said.
“We’re close. We’re close. So let’s get it done. So much depends on it,” Biden said.
As he was wrapping up his remarks, the President answered a few shouted questions. Asked how he was feeling as he deals with his Covid-19 diagnosis: “I’m feeling great. I’ve had two full nights of sleep,” Biden said, adding that his dog woke him up this morning. “I’m feeling good. My voice is still raspy.”
He said he hoped to be back at work in-person at the end of this week but said he was keeping a full schedule.
Asked if he would speak to China’s Xi Jinping this week, Biden said: “That’s my expectation.”
He was also asked about the economy and the possibility of the US facing a recession: “God willing I don’t think we’re going to see a recession.”
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